Luigi DALLAPICCOLA (1904 – 1975)
Partita (1930-32)a [29:01]
Dialoghi (1959-60)b [18:57]
Quattro Liriche di Antonio Machado (1948, orch. 1964)a [5:50]
Three Questions with Two Answers (1962-63) [13:02]
Gillian Keith (soprano)a; Paul Watkins (cello)b
BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda
rec. Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, 16 January 2009 (Partita, Quattro Liriche) and 15 April 2009 (other works)
CHANDOS CHAN 10561 [67:21]
Dallapiccola’s Partita, composed between 1930 and 1932, is the work that put him firmly on the international musical map. Remarkably enough, his exact contemporary Petrassi made his first mark with a similarly titled work, also completed in 1932. Though each draws on old musical forms, albeit viewed through modern eyes, Petrassi’s output is more overtly neo-classical than that of Dallapiccola. The latter’s work is also considerably more ambitious. The opening Passacaglia grows from the depths of the orchestra and unfolds as an archaic chant, as Calum MacDonald has it, building-up to an imposing climax before slowly returning to the dark mood of the opening. This leads straight into the Burlesca, a nervous Scherzo with a calmer trio section. After a short pause comes the third movement Recitativo e Fanfara opening with a short-lived violent outburst followed by a mysterious, almost static section suggesting a Nocturne. This is abruptly disrupted by an angry fanfare introducing a new theme. This section eventually climaxes with a forceful restatement of the opening fanfare followed by an appeased coda leading straight into the finale: a beautiful, delicately scored setting of a Mediaeval lullaby to the Blessed Virgin. Material from the previous movements reappears in hugely varied guise. After reaching a brief but telling climax, the piece ends in utter serenity. Dallapiccola’s Partita is a truly beautiful piece of music that should definitely be heard more often. This is its first modern outing; there has existed a live recording of it made in 1968 (Bruna Rizzoli and Orchestra RAI Torino conducted by Sergiu Celibidache, once available on Stradivarius STR 13608). Fine as it is, it cannot match the splendour of the version under review.
Dialoghi for cello and orchestra was composed in 1959/60 and dedicated to Gaspar Cassadó for whom Dallapiccola also wrote his triptych for solo cello Ciaccona, Intermezzo e Adagio (1945). The work falls into five sections, all based on a note-row stated at the outset by the cello and tightly worked-out. It is scored for large orchestral forces although these are rarely used in tutti. The scoring has a chamber-like transparency that often brings several other works scored for chamber orchestra such as Quattro Liriche di Antonio Machado and, more generally, the music of Webern to mind. Though this is probably one of the composer’s most personal achievements, Dialoghi is a restrained, enigmatic piece “whose fine-drawn lines enshrine, rather than directly express inner intensity” (Calum MacDonald). It is a tough nut to crack, but one well worth the effort. Paul Watkins is a superb musician possessing both the technique and the musicality to bring this understated but highly rewarding piece to life.
Quattro Liriche di Antonio Machado was originally written for voice and piano in 1948 and scored for chamber orchestra in 1964. This short cycle sets four brief texts by the Spanish poet who was a staunch advocate of the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War and whose poetry much appealed to Dallapiccola. The four settings are based on a tone-row associated with words found in the third song (“Lord, we are alone now, my heart and the sea”). Remarkably enough this series and these words will be heard again in the opening scene of the composer’s much later opera Ulisse. This short cycle is a perfect example of Dallapiccola’s innate lyricism.
Three Questions with Two Answers is Dallapiccola’s last orchestral work. It was composed when the composer was already working on Ulisse and this score is at times thematically linked to the opera. Although the composer gave some clues concerning the three questions (Who am I? Who are you? Who are we?), he did not provide any clue as to the answers except by saying that the answer to the last question is to be found in the opera’s last scene when Ulysses sails away from Ithaca for the last time. The first question is meditative and its answer is mostly reflective. The second question is brutal and violent and it is answered by dark, ominous music – actually music accompanying Ulysses’ encounter with the souls of the dead. The third question, though tense and anguished, “yet shot through towards the end with a luminous sense of tranquillity” will eventually remain unanswered.
Dallapiccola’s music may not be easy but is ultimately richly rewarding on repeated hearings, especially when helped by committed and carefully prepared readings such as these. The recording and the production of this release are up to Chandos’s best standards. I must also single-out Calum MacDonald’s well-informed and illuminating insert notes from which I have lavishly quoted. This is one of the finest discs to have come my way recently; and, before ending up in my list of Recordings of the Year, it will be my Record of the Month. I now know that I must rush and get Volume 1 (CHAN 10258: Tartiniana - Divertimento for Violin and Orchestra (1951); Due Pezzi for Orchestra (1947); Piccola Musica Notturna (1954); Frammenti Sinfonici dal Balletto 'Marsia' (1942-43; 1947); Variazioni per Orchestra (1953-54)).

Hubert Culot
One of the finest discs to have come my way recently ... see Full Review