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Giuseppe MARTUCCI (1856-1909)
Sonata for Cello and Piano op. 52 (1880)

Due Romanze op. 72 (1890)
Tre Pezzi op. 69 (1888)
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)

Adagio con variazioni * (transcribed cello and piano 1921)
Arturo Bonucci (cello)
Antonio Bacchelli (piano)
Pietro Spada (piano) *
Recorded in Rome, December 1991 (Respighi) and October 1988 (Martucci)
ARTS 47137-2 [77.21]


This is a well considered pairing. Martucci was Respighi’s composition teacher and the fruitful juxtaposition of master and pupil is one that Arts has explored in a comparable release of works for violin . This time the focus is on the cello and the works are of a commensurately higher level than the rather salon-inspired examples to be heard in the sister volume.

The Cello Sonata is a major Martucci chamber statement. Written when he was twenty-four it has formal limitations and an over-extended first movement. It could have done with enlightened revision but it also possesses abundant lyricism and mid-century Romantic engagement. There’s no doubt that Schumann remained an abiding influence but there’s a subtle admixture here of the rhetoric of Brahmsian passage-work and a smidgen at least of Dvořák. One of the most distinctive and appealing of its features is the freewheeling and humorous Scherzo with its marvellous drone-inflected trio. But the lyrical and affectionate Intermezzo is good too though the finale, whilst forthright, is not especially distinctive. The second of the Two Romances is the better but it was the Tre Pezzi that were amongst the composer’s own favourite works. Like the similar works for violin they can incline rather too closely to the generic. However the E minor is a little gem – moving with real verve and colour and with a flexibility and freedom that impress. These are by no means mere morceaux – the B flat minor lasts ten minutes.

Coupled with these is the Respighi Adagio con variazioni in its version for cello and piano, a transcription made in 1921 in which I always feel the lack of the orchestral version – search out the Cassado Vox Box for that version.

The recording level is good. Soloist Arturo Bonucci has a soft-grained tone that suits the more relaxed patina of some of these pieces but his intonation can wander now and then. I’d have welcomed more athleticism and colour in his playing. In the Sonata Bacchelli is rather backward in the balance and tends to be a mite brittle. The notes are good and even take Martucci to considerable task for formal and other technical limitations and weaknesses. That’s what friends are for!

Jonathan Woolf

see also

Giuseppe MARTUCCI (1856-1909) Sonata for Violin and Piano Op.22 (1874) Tre Pezzi Op.67 for Violin and Piano Op.67 (1886) Melodia for Violin and Piano (1890) Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936) Cinque Pezzi for Violin and Piano * Sei Pezzi for Violin and Piano (1901) * Rodolfo Bonucci (violin)#Antonio Bacchelli (piano) Pietro Spada (piano) * Recorded in Rome, December 1991 (Respighi) and October 1988 (Martucci) ARTS 47138-2 [76.04] [JW]

Some fairly lightweight things here played with commitment and just the right kind of discretion. An enjoyable, relaxing recital. ... see Full Review

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