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Italy’s ‘Generation of 1880’ and its Disciples
Luigi DALLAPICCOLA (1904-1975)
Tartiniana Seconda (1956) [12:09]
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Violin Sonata in B minor, P110 (1917) [28:50]
Giorgio GHEDINI (1892-1965)
Bizzaria (1929) [4:25]
Nino ROTA (1911-1979)
Improvisso in D minor ‘Un diavolo sentimentale’ (1969) [5:39]
Ildebrando PIZZETTI (1880-1968)
Tre Canti (1924) [13:48]
Gian Francesco MALIPIERO (1882-1973)
Il canto della Lontananza (1919) [3:35]
Il canto nell’Infinito (1930) [3:17]
Kaleidos Duo (Miroslav Hristov (violin): Vladimir Valjarević (piano))
rec. May 2013, Louisiana State University Recital Hall, Baton Rouge, LA
ROMÉO RECORDS 7304 [71:44]

I’m beginning to lose count of the number of recordings of Respighi’s B minor sonata I’ve reviewed in the last couple of years but it amounts to something of a mini avalanche. Whether, as here, it’s seen in the context of other Italian works, or whether, as with Tasmin Little, it’s coupled with the Strauss sonata, or Franco Gulli’s Dynamic recording with the FAE composite sonata, there seem no end of the ways that you can infiltrate it into a programme. Another disc on my reviewing pile is by Tamsin Waley-Cohen and she has included it in a disc called ‘1917’, with works grouped around the year of composition. The latest entrant is by the Kaleidos Duo - Miroslav Hristov (violin) and Vladimir Valjarević (piano). For them the Respighi serves as the precursor for the entire recital and whilst Respighi, technically speaking, just misses out being one of the famed ‘Generation of 1880’ composers (by a year) he is a long established member of that loose collective of composers who did so much for Italian instrumental and chamber music in the years ahead.

To the matter in hand, then. The duo takes a somewhat distended approach to the sonata’s first movement and the result is that its indebtedness to Franck becomes more audible, not less. The sometimes clotted piano writing tends to lose direction at slower speeds, and this is one of the slowest outings I’ve encountered. Another demerit in the first movement is that the violin’s declamatory and soaring late-Romanticism sounds more of an adjunct to - or commentary on -the piano writing, rather than being a truly expressive independent voice. Tighter tempi and tempo relations would have largely nullified this fracturing. The other movements go better though the relative lack of tone colour in the slow movement is a shame. There is just enough ‘ma energico’ in the Passacaglia finale to make it work, but I have to say I prefer Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins on Signum, and Gulli on Dynamic – and it’s probably best to omit reference to such classics as Suk’s two recordings, and the great Heifetz LP of 1950.

I enjoyed the rest of the programme a good deal more. Dallapiccola’s Tartiniana Seconda of 1956 is always a vitalising experience in its accommodation of Tartini’s baroque ethos and Dallapiccola’s own chic modernising of the A minor’s carapace. The resinous sonorities generated strike a fine balance between the two competing threads. Ghedini’s Bizzaria is a thoughtful and rather intimately pensive piece, despite the title, where a certain classicism cum impressionism can be sensed. Nino Rota’s Improvisso in D minor ‘Un diavolo sentimentale’ is altogether different, a vibrant up-tempo and filmic affair, excitingly played. Don’t overlook Bianchi and Vincenzi’s excellent performance of this on Dynamic CDS211. Pizzetti’s Tre Canti receive more and more recordings these days and gone are the times when someone like Milstein would cosset and record just the one. These songful miniatures with their underlying sense of melancholy are probably better served by Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez on Hyperion, recently released on an all-Italian disc. Finally the recital ends with two pieces by Malipiero where the immediate First World War overt expressivity of the first, Il canto della Lontananza, is contrasted with the withdrawn impressionism of the later work, Il canto nell’Infinito.
 
Both the recording, and booklet notes – written by the violinist – are trouble-free. The performances somewhat pull their punches, certainly in the Respighi sonata, so I would look elsewhere for that.

Jonathan Woolf