Ciardi was a flute and piccolo virtuoso, born in Prato in Tuscany in 1818.
He seems to have been something of a child prodigy, improvising
melodies on home-made reed pipes before he was seven. In 1827
he made his first public appearance, in Genoa, where he played for the royal family and Paganini was
in the audience. This was the beginning of a dazzling concert
career. He developed into an astounding virtuoso.
did successful concert tours to London and in 1853 moved to St. Petersburg to become chamber
flautist to the Tsar. He taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory
where Tchaikovsky was amongst his pupils. Ciardi remained in
his death in 1877.
the late 1830s he started a parallel career composing, mainly
for his own instrument, though he did write an opera. In 1859
he wrote his Gran Concerto in D, Op. 129. Originally written
for flute and piano he re-cast it for flute and orchestra; but
the orchestral version was never published and a manuscript
has not come to light. Here it is presented in an orchestration
by the flautist Roberto Fabbriciani. The CD booklet also states
that Fabbriciani revised the piece, but no details are given.
orchestrations are attractive and convincingly period, but of
course the spotlight is on the flute. The solo instrument is
to the fore for most of the time and, as with Chopin’s concerti,
the orchestra features mainly in the ritornelli.
includes two other occasional pieces for flute and piano in
his own orchestrations. L’Eco dell’Arno is a fantasia
on Tuscan folk-songs. Ciardi liked the fantasia form as it allowed
him to choose thematic material at will and to improvise variations
in a variety of styles and keys. Il Carnevale in Venezia
is a similar set of variations on the well-known canzonetta,
Cara mamma mia.
both works, Ciardi demonstrated his astounding virtuosity as
a flautist. Whilst in the concerto, he seems to have been slightly
constrained by the formal requirements of the concerto form,
in the fantasias he was free to astound his listeners.
Fabbriciani proves a more than adequate stand-in for Ciardi
himself. He is an astounding technician, well equal to anything
that Ciardi throws at him. But more than that, he plays musically,
with a lovely smooth, warm tone. He is more than adequately
supported by the orchestra.
a filler, Fabbriciani includes five of Ciardi’s shorter pieces
for flute and piano, with Massimiliano Damerini as his fine
accompanist. The acoustic is perhaps slightly too generous for
the flute-piano pairing. The pieces themselves are slight but
designed to show off the flautist’s brilliant technique.
would claim great musical significance for Ciardi’s music, but
it is undeniably attractive. And when it is played in performances
as stunningly virtuosic as this, then all one can do is sit back
and enjoy and admire.
See also Reviews
by Glyn Pursglove and Dominy