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Mario PILATI (1903-1938)
Violin Sonata in F Minor (1928-29) [27:05]
Preludio, Aria and Tarantella on Old Neapolitan Folk tunes (1930) [16:25]
Sarabanda (1925) [5:07]
Two Pezzi (1925) [8:16]
Caccia (1933) [4:12]
Tammurriata (from the Echoes of Naples) [3:02]
Cello Sonata in A Minor (1929) [26:46]
Inquiétude [3:40]
Bagatelles Books 1 & 2 [33:21]
Francesco Manara (violin)
Luca Signorini (cello)
Dario Candela (piano).
rec. 2016, Auditorium Cavalli, Brescia, Italy
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95352 [64:13 + 63:56]

Brilliant Classics are well known for delving into a wide spectrum of directions and styles. In the last ten years they have developed a line in rare Italian music of the last two centuries, including boxes devoted to the orchestral Respighi (94900) and Martucci (93439). At entry level pricing, Brilliant were also notable for inventive licensing deals and boxes assembled from a variety of sources. This disc and now many others take another tack and use original recordings.

The Neapolitan composer Pilati died at age 35 and has had some recorded attention over the last couple of decades. The conductor Adriano has taken a substantial and practical interest (Marco Polo; Naxos; Inédits) while Tactus produced an orchestral disc and Naxos gave us Pilati's Piano Quintet. Now Brilliant Classics enter the lists with a double set: CD 1 - 65 minutes of music for violin and piano and CD 2 - a second 65 minutes: part music for cello and piano and part two 'Serie' of Bagatelles for solo piano.

Pilati's Violin Sonata is a work of full-on late-romantic lyricism and emotional torment; listen to the acrid cinematic battlefield that is the final Largo. At the end, a haunted peace is most luminously established by both Manara and Candela. Francesco Manara plays the Sonata with total commitment and more than meets the score half-way. He plays it as a concerto manqué. While Manara does not have the lushest of tones, as heard here, he is searching and ardent; acetic but passionate. This arresting sound reminds me of Gulli's on that recent First Hand Records CD of the Curci violin concertos and of Tessa Robbins' on Saga and now Heritage in John Ireland's Violin Sonata No. 2.

Preludio, Aria and Tarantella on Old Neapolitan Folk tunes is, perhaps as signalled by the title, more carefree. Even so, it is by no means relaxed across its three movements and 16 minutes. The following Sarabanda cools the temperature after the exuberance of the Neapolitan work without taking it down to freezing. The Two Pezzi are ambiguous, mercurial, fantastical and mood-unstable. They are somewhat in the manner of Prokofiev's First Violin Concerto. The Caccia and the Tammurriata (from The Echoes of Naples) are on the one hand steady-as-she-goes studies in scorching haughty Paganinian virtuosity and on the other hark back to the street smarts of the Preludio, Aria and Tarantella: showy, cheeky and not lacking in back-alley strutting insolence.

The two pieces for cello and piano include the three-movement Sonata in A minor (1929) with its strong and wayward lyric pulse. Pilati finds a more determined jaw-set for the Animato finale which once or twice will have the listener thinking of the Rachmaninov sonata. Overall the Sonata stands somewhere between the cello sonatas by Delius and Foulds. The "Melodic Etude" Inquiétude is a little piece with a grateful melody as promised by the title. The only thing that doesn't fit is the Inquiétude part of the title. On the contrary the music feels secure and centred.

The two sets of Bagatelles - eleven pieces in all, some very short - have an unambitious beguiling charm or cheerfulness. A few stand out from the crowd including the lulling moonlit Ninna Nanna and Rococo. Giovanni Nesi introduced listeners to these sets on Tactus but there they were differently and less generously coupled. As elsewhere on this disc Candela is equal to the technical and artistic demands of these pretty much unknown scores. Signorini's cello is more than well matched to the tasks set for him by Pilati.

The 16-page booklet is in English only and includes an extensive essay by Laura Esposito Pilati. There are also full targeted profiles of each work, by Dario Candela, the pianist throughout.

A window opened on Pilati's works for piano and duo: lyrically unleashed and charmingly characterful.

Rob Barnett



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