Alberto Cantù - Ermanno Wolf Ferrari: La Musica, la grazia, il silenzio.
Includes a CD of the Violin Concerto in D major Op.26 (1901) performed by Laura Marzadori (violin) with Orchestra Città di Ferrara/Marco Zuccarini, recorded live, Teatro Comunale di Ferrara, 14 April 2012
Gabrielli Editori 2011, 123pp
Through the kindness of a reader of this site I’ve been sent a copy of Alberto Cantù’s monograph on Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, published in Verona in 2011. It adds to the relatively small collection of works on the composer. There is at least one MusicWeb International reviewer who could, with justice, review the text, which is in Italian, but I am not Christopher Howell. Therefore, with regret, but with the agreement of the book’s contributor, I am merely going to bring the book to your attention and focus instead on the enclosed CD.
As the art reproduction on the cover might suggest, the work concerned is the Violin Concerto. Incidentally the artist of Ritratto di Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari is Ettore Tito (1859-1941). The fiddler for whom the work was written was the tempestuous and controversial American-born Guila Bustabo, and a performance given by her has been preserved and was released on CD a number of years ago. The performance under review now, however, was – remarkably – the first Italian presentation of the work, and was given by Laura Marzadori with the Orchestra Città di Ferrara under Marco Zuccarini in April 2012.
The concerto was written in 1944, toward the end of the composer’s life. It opens with some quizzical musing for violin and winds, but then soon becomes immersed in rich cantilena and profuse lyricism. Long-breathed phrases are excellently realised by Marzadori who clearly relishes writing not a million miles removed from late Glazunov or a less effusive Korngold. The slow movement is a compendium of influences, but somehow it works. Sweet lyric motifs buttressed by strong horn harmonies announce the deftly orchestrated movement. Some of these episodes may remind one of Vieuxtemps, whilst others suggest a cross between verismo and Bruch. An overtly virtuosic Improviso section leads straight on to the finale. Here Marzadori’s vibrato takes on a tremulous intensity as she glides over the avuncular writing. A strong cadenza, well dispatched, leads on to an operatic dance, led by the solo violin, and an engaging close. The audience responds with considerable applause.   
Apart from Bustabo’s live performance with Kempe in Munich in 1971 (it’s on a deleted A Classical Record CD devoted to the violinist), Ulf Hoelscher has recorded the concerto on CPO 999 271-2, though I’ve not had the opportunity to audition it for purposes of comparison with this performance. What one can say with certainty is that it’s high time that the concerto was heard in Italy, and that it is secure hands in this fine performance. If you’d like a monograph on the composer, you will find this excellent performance much to your liking as well as an exciting bonus.
Jonathan Woolf
If you’d like a monograph on the composer, you will find this excellent performance much to your liking as well as an exciting bonus.