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Cesare CIARDI (1818-1877)
Gran Concerto in D minor, for flute and orchestra, Op.1291
L'Eco dell'Arno, Fantasia for flute and orchestra, Op.341
Il carnevale di Venezia, Op.221
Le Rossignol du Nord, Fantaisie for flute and piano, Op.452
Un sospiro del cuore, Elegia for flute and piano2
La Smorfiosetta, Capriccio for flute and piano2
Di Chi?, Polka Mazurka for flute and piano2
Piccola fantasia su due Stornelli napoletani, for flute and piano2
Roberto Fabbriciani (flute)
Orchestra Sinfonica del Friuli Venezia Giulia/Stefan Fraas2
Massimiliano Damerini (piano)2
rec. April, 2004, The Auditorium, Udine. DDD
NAXOS 8.557857 [63:24]


Though this is in most respects an all-Italian affair - composer, musicians, recording venue (and titles) all being Italian, there is also a Russian dimension to take into account.

Ciardi was born in 1818 in Prato near Florence - indeed the modern Municipal Band of the City of Prato bears his name. He showed precocious signs of musical gifts, and by 1827 was performing in public. In that year he performed at the Palazzo Reale in Genoa under the wing, as it were, of no less than Paganini. A glittering career as virtuoso of the flute followed. But he also composed - including, it seems, an opera - chiefly for the flute. He toured extensively - in 1847, for example, he was in London. In 1853 he was appointed Chamber Flautist to the Tsar of Russia and a Professor of the Imperial Chapel and the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Tchaikovsky was amongst his students and the two became friends. Ciardi remained in Russia until his death at Strelna in 1877. His years in Russia gave him a love of Russian musical traditions which is discernable in some of his music, alongside the deep-rooted Italian traits which characterise most of Ciardi's compositions.

Aficionados of the flute will surely want to snap up this CD. Ciardi's work is not readily available on mainstream recordings, though it made an important contribution to the instrument's repertoire in the middle years of the nineteenth century. How interesting the CD will be to the general musical public I am less sure. It cannot be claimed that this is music of any great depth or weight. We are told that in the works for flute and orchestra the orchestral music is the product of "revision and orchestration by R. Fabbriciani". In the case of the Gran Concerto, the work was originally written for flute and piano; Ciardi later produced a version for flute and orchestra, but this is now lost. In any case, the orchestra only really serves as background for the flute, not as a partner in a musical dialogue of any substance. Fabbriciani's orchestrations are adequate and idiomatic, without being in any way special.

Ciardi's love of the popular music of his native Italy never left him - it is evident in L'Eco dell'Arno, a loose fantasia on traditional themes from Tuscany, in the Piccola fantasia on two stornelli (short popular songs) from Naples, and Il carnevale di Venezia. All three works have an elegant charm and there is much limpid writing for the flute. His long sojourn in St. Petersburg awakened in Ciardi a love of Russian popular music too. Amongst his compositions are the Deux fantaisies sur des motifs de l'opéra "La Vie pour le Czar" de Glinka, pour flûte et piano and Le carnaval russe: variations brillantes (also for flute and piano) and Le rossignol pour chant et flute avec piano (Op.61), based on a famous piece by Alexandre Alabieff (1787-1851), originally for violin and piano and arranged for solo piano by Liszt (as well as for flute and strings by Vieuxtemps). Here, on the present CD, we have Le Rossignol du Nord, for flute and piano, a dazzling set of variations carried off with some panache.

Throughout, the playing of all concerned is thoroughly competent. There are one or two very slight tonal blemishes in Fabbriciani's playing, but these are few and far between and he is generally impressive and persuasive - not least in Le Rossignol du Nord. Massimiliano Damerini is an excellent accompanist, responsive and technically sure. The Orchestra Sinfonica del Friuli Venezia Giulia do what is asked of them and Stefan Fraas's conducting cannot be faulted. At points the orchestra would have benefited from a slightly more vivid recorded sound.

Any reservations I have about this CD are not to do with the performers. Though I have enjoyed the time I have spent with this music for the purposes of writing a review, I am not sure, now that the CD has gone onto my shelves, that there is any single piece of music on it so special as to be likely to demand that I take it down from those shelves with any great frequency.

Glyn Pursglove

See also review by Dominy Clements


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