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The Golden Age of Concertmasters: Alfonso Mosesti
Leone SINIGAGLIA (1868-1944)
Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 20 (1899) [28:34]
Antonio ILLERSBERG (1882-1953)
Violin Concerto in G major (1906-11) [38:40]
Alfonso Mosesti (violin)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI/Ferruccio Scaglia (Sinigaglia)
Orchestra Filarmonica Triestina/Octavio Ziino (Illersberg)
rec. live broadcast, 7 November 1959, Auditorium Foro Italico, Roma (Sinigaglia); 1953 studio Radio Trieste, Teatro Comunale Giuseppe Verdi, Trieste (Illersberg)

Subtitled ‘The Golden Age of Concertmasters’, this interesting release focuses on the Italian violinist Alfonso Mosesti (b.1924). He studied with Cesare Barison and Antonio Illersberg in Trieste. From 1954-1999 he was concertmaster of the RAI Orchestra in Rome. One of his claims to fame was his premiering of the rediscovered Gaetano Pugnani Violin Concerto in D major, as well as giving the first performance of the Antonio Illerberg Concerto featured here.

Leone Sinigaglia studied at the Conservatory in Turin with Giovanni Bolzoni. Throughout his career he associated with Brahms and later worked in Prague with Dvořák. As a Jew he was persecuted by the Nazis during the War, tragic events which no doubt contributed to his death from a fatal heart attack in 1944. He was a mountaineer of some renown, achieving some notable ascents in the Dolomites. His Violin Concerto was completed in 1899 and dedicated to his friend, the violinist Arrigo Serato a former pupil of Joachim. Serato premiered it in Berlin in November 1901. In the traditional three-movement mould, the first opens with an almost militaristic theme, and the ‘risoluto’ marking at its head pervades the movement. Energy and drama underpin the narrative, but there are moments of impassioned lyricism, too. The solo part is demanding by any standards, and Mosesti steps up to the mark admirably. He possesses immaculate intonation and a flexible vibrato, enabling him to colour his playing with an extensive range of tonal shadings. A horn passage heralds in a fetching Adagio. Sinigaglia demonstrates a natural flair for melody, and this is one of the most attractive concerto movements I’ve ever heard. Mosesti brings warmth and eloquence to his reading, and the application of some tasteful portamenti adds to the allure. The finale is nicely articulated with some crisply incisive spiccato bowing. The general mood is genial and spirited. This live broadcast is conducted by Ferruccio Scaglia, who proves a sensitive collaborator, alert to the ebb and flow of the narrative of this deliciously attractive score.

Antonio Illersberg was orphaned from an early age and taken into care. He showed musical promise from the start, mastering an array of instruments. He studied at the Liceo Musicale of Bologna with Luigi Torchi and Giuseppe Martucci. A fellow student at the time was Ottorino Respighi. He later taught at the Verdi Conservatory in Trieste. Luigi Dallapiccola was one of his students. His Violin Concerto had a lengthy gestation from 1906-1911, and he dedicated it to Cesare Barison. It was premiered in 1951, by Mosesti. The recording here was made two years later in 1953. Cast in three movements, it conforms to the fast-slow-fast pattern. The opening movement hints at what is to come – a late Romantic canvas, colourfully scored with long spun melodies. It doesn’t quite have the technical difficulties of the Sinigaglia, yet the soloist is put through his paces. The highlight for me is the exquisite Adagio, with its Mahlerian harmonic flavours. Wistful and nostalgic, Mosesti caresses the phrases with ardent feeling and tenderness. A sparkling and fiery finale caps off proceedings, which the violinist dispatches with vim and vigour. Ottavio Ziino and the Orchestra Filarmonica Triestina offer sterling support.

The recordings have scrubbed up well for their age and provenance thanks to the expert remastering of Emilio Pessina. The documentation is second-to-none, written by Gianluca La Villa, who sets the music in some sort of historical context. Also included is an interview the violinist gave to Nicola Gallino in 2007 in which he discusses some of the famous names he has encountered throughout his distinguished career. The beautifully reproduced black and white photographs are the icing on the cake.

The value of this release lies in the rarity of these captivating scores, performed by a violinist with a close affinity to both.
Stephen Greenbank



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