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Virgilio RANZATO (1883-1937)
Paolo Mora (violin)
Milo Martani (piano)
rec. 2016, Oratorio dell’Assunta della Rocca Sanvitale di Sala Baganza
TACTUS TC881801 [68:11]

When scouring auction lists of 78s, you will frequently come across the name of violinist Virgilio Ranzato whose Pathé, HMV, Zonophone and Columbia discs generally go for next to nothing. He was Venetian, studying in the city and then in Milan. His most eminent position was as leader of the orchestra at La Scala, where he played under Toscanini, and he clearly earned considerable respect if the number of his discs is anything to go by – even though their historical value now far outstrips their monetary worth. Around 1910 he moved toward composition and his operettas formed the backbone of his professional career until his death, several being amongst the most popular Italian productions of their time.

This disc is devoted to the earlier period in his life when his compositions supported his concert-giving life, that of an orchestral and chamber player who also gave numerous recitals, spiced with some of his own efforts. It was a commonplace at a time when soloists were largely expected to write genre pieces; good for recordings, and good for the publication of sheet music, which could be advertised at concerts (this is a much under-explored niche subject in the area of commercial recording and recital history).

It would be good to report that Tactus’ booklet traced the trajectory of Ranzato’s biographical and musical life in an effective narrative but in fact, rather dodgily translated into English, it’s all over the place. It’s an extremely frustrating read, interleaving snippets of life into details about the works - itself usefully presented - in a way that manages to clog both the life and the art.

The music itself reflects contemporary enthusiasm for salon charmers, sentimental serenades, insect studies, Spanish dances à la Sarasate, Magyar muscle, twilight tristesse and coquetry. Compositions date from 1907 to around 1922 so covers the period when Ranzato had moved into large-scale compositions but retained a fondness for morceaux pieces such as these. We hear one of the set of Op.2, a Romance that shows a conventional turn of mind but a warm and enveloping generosity of expression. Four of the pieces in the disc were dedicated to eminent violinists; the Danse Espagnole, full of vitality and Sarasatean sunlight, bears a dedication to César Thomson, one of the reigning monarchs of the Belgian school as does the spirited Serenade galante whilst Teresina Tua, a pioneering exponent of the Italian school, received a brace too: a rather beautifully spun Serenata Andalusa, full of intimacy, and Farfalla intorno al lume, a butterfly study that comes out sounding like a certain bumblebee. Not content with this, in 1923 he also wrote a less hectic Dragonfly dance (Danza di libellule) with an attractive drone and a slight Ragtime feel.

Ranzato certainly covered a lot of the lighter ground. He conceives a showy gallop, launched by anticipatory pizzicati – plenty of avid horse hoofs in the piano part - in Galopade and the early cinema interested Ranzato sufficiently for him to write a score for La Canzone del fuoco from which we hear some love music in the form of a suavely laid-back waltz. Hymnal and cuckoo evocations – a chance for scherzo virtuosity – rub musical shoulders with the longest piece here, the seven-minute Capriccio ungherese, which is terpsichorean if somewhat generic.

Paola Mora and Milo Martani make a good team, drawing out much of the music’s flair. Mora is not the most technically watertight player and he is sometimes fractionally under the note but whilst greater projection and colour would do more for the recital, he and Martani’s ensemble is secure. Ranzato recorded a number of the earlier pieces from 1909 onwards – at least ten by my reckoning - but there are a number of world premiere recordings here and the curious will find the recital well shaped and pretty well recorded.

Jonathan Woolf

Disc contents
Arlecchinata (1923) [1:28]
Aubade (1922) [2:58]
Berceuse, op.12 no.3 (1907) [2:47]
Capriccio ungherese (1922) [7:11]
Danse espagnole, op.12 no.1 (1907) [1:40]
Danza di libellule [3:49]
Farfalla intorno al lume, op.42 (Scherzo) (1920) [2:12]
Galopade (1908) [1:31]
Il cuculo, op.36 (Scherzo in A minor) [3:27]
Il tamburino arabo (Impressione for violin and piano) (1920) [2:48]
La canzone d'amore [2:51]
La preghiera della sera (1911) [4:07]
Meditation, op.13 (1907) [4:10]
Nell'ora dell'Ave Maria, op.44 [3:31]
Romanza senza parole, op.2 no.1 (1907) [3:55]
Serenade galante [2:52]
Serenata (1908) [2:41]
Serenata Andaluse, op.41 (1920) [5:34]
Serenata Coquette [3:29]
Serenata triste (1908) [3:40]



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