Vittorio GIANNINI (1903-1966)
Quintet for Piano and Strings (1932) [33:40]
Trio for Piano and Strings [27:19]
Manchester Music Festival (Joana Genova (violin I); Stefan Milenkovich (violin II); Ariel Rudiakov (viola); Ani Aznavoorian (cello); Adam Neiman (piano))
rec. 10-13 Jan 2011, Troy Savings Bank, New York.
world première recordings
MSR CLASSICS MS 1394 [60:59] 

Without some words of wisdom you would hardly know that this was music written in the 1930s by an American composer. Please take this as descriptive. There is no reason why any composer should be expected to be like any other. Diversity is the life blood of music; so much so that it is a platitude. Not that this stops people being dismayed when music does not match racial or national stereotypes. Enough!
Vittorio Giannini’s music is often of the eruptively romantic type alongside that of Menotti, Flagello and Creston and but unlike that of Piston (except a little in the Second Symphony) or Persichetti.
The three-movement Piano Quintet is a big, heart-swelling work. It’s romantic with absolutely no concessions to modernity - utterly saturated in sentiment and a hair’s breadth from Korngold. The music on many occasions inhabits the world of Fauré’s First Piano Quartet, the Chausson Concert and the Atlantic-Celtic works of Ropartz, Koechlin and Cras. It’s gorgeous stuff that you need to hear. The central Adagio is magically spun. The final Allegro is triumphantly Rachmaninovian, crowned with heroism. The Trio is also in three intensely neo-romantic movements. It, too, has something of the epic hothouse atmosphere of the Quintet but if anything leans more towards kindly classical models provided by Dvořák. It ends with a wink and the utmost ingenuity.
There are many Giannini works to be explored and revived. As yet unrecorded are symphonies 1, 2, and 5, let alone two fascinatingly titled and unnumbered symphonies from the 1930s: IBM (1937) and In memoriam Theodore Roosevelt (1935). There’s a String Quartet (1930), two violin sonatas from the 1940s, a Requiem (1937) for choir and orchestra, two scenas for soprano and orchestra (Medead and Antigone) from the 1960s, and seven operas: Lucedia (1934), The Scarlet Letter (1938) after Nathaniel Hawthorne, Beauty and the Beast (1938), Blennerhassett (1939), The Taming of the Shrew (1950), The Harvest (1961) and Servant of Two Masters (1966) after Goldoni. Meantime try this new release alongside Psalm 130 for double bass (or cello) and orchestra (1963), the Symphony No. 4 and the Piano Concerto (review) also the Concerto Grosso (review) and the Piano Sonata (review).
You can read more about Giannini in Walter Simmons’ fine book surveying six American neo-romantics.
Well done MSR. Two no-compromise neo-romantic chamber works utterly saturated in intense sentiment and lyricism. The Quintet is a glorious piece - a real discovery.  

Rob Barnett 

Two no-compromise neo-romantic chamber works utterly saturated in intense sentiment and lyricism. 

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