Mario PILATI (1903-1938)
Suite for Strings and Piano (1925) [14:18]
Bagatelles (1934-35): Books 1 [16:20] and 2 [30:20]
Giovanni Nesi (piano)
Orchestra Nazionale Artes/Giovanni Nesi
rec. 2013, Villa Peyron, Fiesole; Scola di Musica Comunale, Prato
TACTUS TC901602 [52:53]
Like many another composer Neapolitan composer Mario Pilati had to endure parents who struggled against his musical vocation. He persisted and after five years (1918-23) at the Conservatorio San Pietro in Majella secured his Diploma in Composition. Quite apart from attracting a commission from Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge he held academic posts at the Musical Institute of Cagliari. Later he moved to Milan and then Palermo. He composed industriously with his output including a Concerto for Orchestra recorded by Tomáš Nemec and Adriano for Marco Polo and then reissued on Naxos. Add to this various orchestral works, again presented by Adriano on Inedita, and a very sunnily disposed Piano Quintet played by Ciccolini on Naxos.

We owe the present disc to Tactus and the pianist Giovanni Nesi who also conducts the four-movement Suite. The Suite is dedicated to Pilati's friend Renato Fasano, who had secured employment for Pilati in Cagliari. The Suite serves as a relaxed, discursive and at times luxuriously romantic piano concerto. The writing suffers a shade because the orchestra here lacks a luxurious tone but what we hear is enjoyable. There are moments when the music feels somewhat neo-classical and others where the writing for massed strings is not a million miles from Vaughan Williams' Concerto Grosso; try the first movement. A consciously archaic Capriol-like voice can be heard in the Sarabanda (II) and this is offset by the optimistic chuckle of the Minuetto (III).

The remainder of the disc is given over to two books of Bagatelles for solo piano. The first book was made into an orchestrated Suite dedicated to Pilati's three daughters. We know it in this form from Adriano's Inedita disc. These initial five range from a cheeky little Marcia to a sleepy Ninna Nanna to an at first villainously dark Basso ostinato that soon finds easy-going serenity. There are six short pieces in the second book which include a smilingly rhythmic Barzeletta. Add to this a chiming music-box Rococo and a Rondo valzer, both of which sneak an affectionate peek in the direction of Vienna. There's a Contrasto rusticano with a sly yet singable Italianate melody, a placidly meandering Intermezzo and a chatteringly exuberant Fine, again alive with the spirit of song.

This disc helps fill out the picture of an agreeable yet unassuming composer who died young in Naples. The sometimes clunkily translated but clear essay by Marta Poggesi also assists.

More ammunition for the explorer who refuses to accept received wisdoms about twentieth century Italy being only the home of opera and Respighi.

Rob Barnett

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