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These notes were prepared by Christopher Howell to accompany FIORI ROSSINIANI SHEVA COLLECTION 029. We thought them of sufficient to be published on their own. As yet the disc has not been reviewed.


THE CLARINET IN SEARCH OF ROSSINI
 
The clarinet is possibly better endowed as to repertoire than its other woodwind cousins. All the same, it is a slender list compared with the wealth of material available to the violinist. I have already recorded a disc of British clarinet music – C.H. Lloyd, Stanford, Hurlstone, C.A. Gibbs and Finzi – with the leading Italian clarinettist Alessandro Travaglini (Sheva Collection SH 021). We decided to dedicate our next disc, logically enough, to Italian music (Fiori Rossiniani, Sheva Collection SH 029).
 
There is, in fact, a small list of original music for clarinet and piano by Italian 20th century composers – in particular Busoni, Longo, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Rota. We may come to these later. We decided, instead, to turn to a much more celebrated composer who wrote very little for this instrument – Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868).
 
The dearth of music by Rossini for clarinet, together with the vogue for operatic transcriptions, fantasias, potpourris and the like, encouraged the virtuoso clarinettists of the day – and not only in Italy – to provide more material of their own. Most of these reworkings of well-known Rossini themes were written within the master’s own lifetime.
 
Iwan Müller (1786-1854) was born in the present-day Estonian capital of Tallin (then called Reval) and travelled throughout Europe as a virtuoso. He made a number of technical improvements to his instrument and his studies are still valued as teaching material by modern players. His 3 Fantasien op.27 open with an aria less well-known today, “Di piacer mi balza il cor” from “La Gazza ladra”. The other two pieces are based on celebrated arias from “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”: “Ecco ridente in ciel” and, inevitably, “Una voce poco fa”. His vision of Rossini seems aimed at drawing the witty Italian into the gentler world of Schubertian lyricism. Witness, for example the extension of Rosina’s independent declarations into a romantic dialogue with the piano. It can be rather disarming to find well-known thematic material, transcribed at first fairly literally, suddenly branching off into something quite different, then returning nonchalantly to the Rossini original.
 
Ernesto Cavallini (1807-1874) was Milanese. He entered the city Conservatoire at the age of 10 and, after touring Italy, joined the orchestra of La Scala. Concert tours took him to Paris in 1842 and London in 1845 where the leading British clarinettist Henry Lazarus dubbed him “the Paganini of the clarinet”. An invitation by the St. Petersburg Italian Opera Orchestra led to his remaining in that city for 15 years, where he also taught at the local Conservatoire. He returned to Milan in 1870. Cavallini was admired by Verdi and the clarinet solo that opens Act III of La Forza del Destino was written for him.
 
Fiori rossiniani” (Rossinian Flowers”) provided us with a title for the disc. It is an affectionate, sometimes irreverent, potpourri of well-known and less-well-known Rossinian melodies. It has been suggested that some, at least, of the decorations in these pieces may reflect typical singers’ practices of the day – but not necessarily the best ones. It is also possible that Cavallini’s treatment of the “Tirolese” from “Guglielmo Tell” has something to teach us about tempo. The clarinet fireworks that accompany its later stages would seem to set a maximum tempo for this section – a tempo little more than half that adopted on some modern recordings of the opera! There may be a lesson for conductors here.
 
Also included is Cavallini’s “Una lagrima sulla tomba dell’immortale Rossini [A tear on the tomb of the immortal Rossini]”, a tribute using themes by Cavallini himself. It is a well-varied, optimistic piece, far from the lachrymose elegy we might expect. Arguably the composer of a “Petite Messe Solennelle” that is neither small nor solemn was better celebrated thus.
Stefano Golinelli (1818-1891) was born in Bologna. A student of Vaccaj, in 1840 he was named professor of piano at the Bologna Conservatoire on Rossini’s recommendation. In 1842 Hiller described him as the finest Italian pianist of his time and urged him to make a career as a virtuoso. Tours followed in France, Germany and England.
 
Most of Golinelli’s output is for solo piano, but he wrote 2 Morceaux de Salon for clarinet which we included simply by virtue of their dedication to Rossini. There are no specifically Rossinian influences, except insofar as the first may reflect the fascination which the Alpine atmosphere of “Guglielmo Tell” held for its contemporaries. More generally, a suggestion of Italian opera attenuates the influences of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Liszt. Above all, they are attractive pieces, suggesting that further exploration of Golinelli may be worth while.
 
Domenico Liverani (1805-1876) was born in Castelbolognese. Inspired by the local band he took up the clarinet at an early age and enrolled in the Liceo Musicale di Bologna in 1822. An English patron took him on highly successful tours including Paris and London, till he was appointed professor of clarinet at the Bologna Liceo in 1838. His friends and admirers included Rossini, the singers Pasta, Malibran and Rubini and the clarinettist Cavallini. He is said to have been able to sight-read perfectly even with the score placed upside down.
 
Appearing on the disc are Liverani’s “2 Chants Religieux du Stabat Mater di G. Rossini” These takes on the two Stabat Mater movements can be described as affectionately impudent. While it has been suggested, as with Cavallini, that some of his decorations may reflect the more extreme practices of contemporary singers, his great speciality was to unleash the clarinet in a sort of circus act while the piano takes up the melody. “Cujus animam” starts innocently enough, but fasten your seat belts as it hots up! It required genius of a sort, too, to transform the timpani roll of “Pro Peccatis” into a low trill, and then fill the rests between the stark orchestral chords with florid cadenzas.
 
All the pieces mentioned so far belong to the 19th century. This was the great age of the transcription. However, the practice of purloining new works for the clarinet repertoire continued in the 20th century.
 
Yona Ettlinger (1924-1981) was born of Jewish parents in Munich. His family emigrated to Palestine in 1933. After studies in the USA and France, Ettlinger was first clarinet of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra from 1947 to 1964. Following a brief period in Paris from 1964 he settled in London in 1966, where he taught at the Guildhall School of Music for the rest of his life.
 
The arrangement of the Third Sonata for Strings, played on this disc, is not “creative” after the 19th century manner, but it skilfully acquires an attractive addition to the clarinet repertoire.
 
And so to Rossini himself. Rossini wrote just one, or perhaps two, original works for clarinet and piano. “Perhaps” refers to the “Introduction, Theme and Variations”, which was described in the first edition as for “clarinet and orchestra or pianoforte”. However, only the orchestral score was published and no version for clarinet and piano attributable to Rossini, whether printed or in manuscript, has ever come to light. There are, or course, several modern editions with piano accompaniment, but always of the unpianistic kind typical of orchestral transcriptions of concerto accompaniments. We can suppose that a Rossini original, if it ever existed and if it should ever be found, would be more radically recast in pianistic terms. We did not include this piece, therefore.
 
The “Fantaisie” (1829) was presumably called thus rather than a sonata on account of its free form. The four movements consist of a dramatic introduction, a light-hearted theme with two variations (the first for piano solo), a melodramatic aria over a tremolo accompaniment and an effervescent finale. Rossini’s expressive gifts, as well as his verve, are well present. Clarinettists do not greatly favour this piece since the piano hogs the show at too many points. We are not all that far from the 18th century world of the “sonata for piano with instrumental obbligato”. I enjoyed myself, anyway!
 
Christopher Howell
 
Full details of the disc are as follows:
 
FIORI ROSSINIANI
 
IWAN MÜLLER (1786-1854)
3 FANTASIEN op. 27
[1] 1. Di piacer mi balza il cor (da La Gazza ladra) [7:54]
[2] 2. Ecco ridente in ciel (da Il Barbiere di Siviglia) [4:11]
[3] 3. Una voce poco fa (da Il Barbiere di Siviglia) [6:42]
ERNESTO CAVALLINI (1807-1874)
[4] FIORI ROSSINIANI (CAPRICCIO) [10:53]
[5] UNA LACRIMA SULLA TOMBA DELL’IMMORTALE ROSSINI [4:53]
STEFANO GOLINELLI (1818-1891)
2 MORCEAUX DE SALON op.124 (à Rossini)
[6] 1. Andante mosso [4:50]
[7] 2 Allegro appassionato [3:10]
DOMENICO LIVERANI (1805-1876)
2 CHANTS RELIGIEUX DU STABAT MATER DI G. ROSSINI
[8] 1. Cujus animam [7:01]
[9] 2. Pro peccatis [5:43]
ROSSINI arr. YONA ETTLINGER (1924-1981)
SONATA No. 3
[10] 1. Allegro [6:09]
[11] 2. Andante [4:03]
[12] 3. Moderato [2:26]
GIOACCHINO ROSSINI (1792-1868)
FANTAISIE (1829)
[13] 1. Andante maestoso [1:19]
[14] 2. Allegretto [3:03]
[15] 3. Andantino [1:15]
[16] 4. Vivace [3:17]
 
ALESSANDRO TRAVAGLINI (clarinet)
CHRISTOPHER HOWELL (piano)
 
Recorded March 2010, Studio “L’Eremo”, Lessona (Italy).
Piano: Bechstein
Producer: Ermanno De Stefani
 
SHEVA COLLECTION SH 029


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 


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