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Alfredo CASELLA (1893-1947)
Triple Concerto Op.56 (1933) [26:57] ¹
Violin Concerto in A minor Op.48 (1928) [32:16] ²
Matthias Wollong (violin)
Danjuio Ishizaka (cello)
Frank Immo Zichner (piano)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Michael Sanderling ¹; Vladimir Jurowski ²
rec. Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg. July 1999 (Violin Concerto) and Jesus-Christus Kirche, Berlin November-December 2005 (Triple Concerto)
CAPRICCIO SACD 71 099 [59:21]

Here are two Casella concertos that will have escaped all but the most assiduous devotees of the composer. They both derive from his so-called “Third Period” of compositional development, a very amorphous categorisation that rather fails to get to grips with stylistic specifics.
The earlier of the two, the Violin Concerto, is an easygoing work dedicated to and first performed by Josef Szigeti. He mentions the performance in his autobiography but is otherwise silent about either the work or its reception. Louis Krasner played it. And another violinist who propagandised for the concerto is Ida Haendel who played it with Celibidache. She’s a lot more voluble about it and its attendant difficulties, which perhaps I can summarise as a problem regarding thematically similar material returning saddled with different resolutions. One wrong note and the soloist would go haywire. Haendel admits that it made for difficulties in memorising. Unfortunately neither Szigeti nor Haendel left behind recordings but another splendid musician, André Gertler did, though it’s not one to which I’ve had access.
As a work it’s a really neo-romantic pleaser with modified Stravinskian touches. It opens like The Lark Ascending but settles down to add a dash of rhythmic verve and variety. The thematic recurrences are part of a structural consonance and add a formal control over sometimes slightly-too-leisurely writing. The slow movement though is gorgeously lyrical and redolent at times of Italian folk-influenced song, though Casella is at pains to contrast the outer liquidity with a central section of more boisterous action. In spirit if not detail one feels Casella turning to the slow moving of Ravel’s Piano Concerto for inspiration. The marching rondo finale does sound, in its more restful moments, like a prefiguring of Finzi.
The Triple Concerto Op.56 followed five years later. It was written for the trio of which Casella was the pianist, the Trio Italiano, whose other members were Alberto Poltronieri and Arturo Bonucci. A private recording of the trio performing this with Koussevitsky in Boston in 1936 does exist. The trio bearing Poltronieri’s name recorded it commercially and there has certainly been at least one more recent, currently unavailable, recording.
Naturally it was written for Casella’s own trio. Opening solemnly it’s written in frankly concerto grosso form, harking back to the kind of Italian eighteenth century style of which Casella was so convinced an exponent and revivifier. There are plenty of stalking figures passed around from basses to brass to winds. There’s some acerbity here but in the main Casella’s trademark lyricism takes prominence. The slow movement is harmonically more complex with the kind of statuesque tune once more redolent of Ravel. Yet again he contrasts this with a vivid terpsichorean section that flirts with tangy dance affiliations. The finale is vigorous and gigue-like. It employs the contrasting scheme that runs throughout, framing the trio against the orchestra. It does actually reach quite bucolic heights, the most florid of the six movements in this enterprising disc.
Capriccio’s SACD set-up sounds, though I played it on a conventional system, full of a bloom that doesn’t stint detail. The performances are accomplished and sure-footed even if none of the soloists is the ultimate in characterful individualists. The documentation is perfectly adequate and helpful. Neither work necessarily adds much to the lifeblood of concerto literature but they do plough previously under-tilled soil as far as the catalogues are concerned.
Jonathan Woolf




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