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Leone SINIGAGLIA (1868-1944)
Romanza and Humoresque for Cello and Orchestra Op. 16 (c1896) [13:25]
Concerto for Violin in A-major Op. 20 (1899) [36:44]
Two Characteristic Pieces for String Orchestra Op. 35 (1910)
Laura Marzadori (violin)
Fernando Caida Greco (cello)
Orchestra of the City of Ferrara/Marco Zuccarini
rec. live, 15 January 2013 in the Teatro Communale Ferrara, Italy
TACTUS TC 861901 [55:00]

Leone Sinigaglia was one of the Italian composers who followed the lead of Martucci, Sgambati, and Bossi in trying to forge a non-operatic Italian music. Sinigaglia was born in Turin but spent much of his twenties travelling and studying in Italy and Central Europe before settling in Vienna from 1894 to 1899. Here became acquainted with Brahms and studied with Brahms’ friend Mandyczewski and with Dvorak. He returned to Turin for the rest of his life, writing orchestral, vocal, and instrumental music (but no opera) until his mid-forties, after which he wrote only a few works. His music was played through the 1950’s, but then faded into obscurity. For more information on Sinigaglia, see my colleague Christopher Howells’ review of the only book available on Sinigaglia [review].

While Sinigaglia’s chamber and vocal music are represented on CD [review ~ review], this is the first disc devoted entirely to his orchestral music. Two of the works here date from the composer’s residence in Vienna, while the Regenlied is one of his late works. The earliest piece, the Romanza and Humoresque, shows some influence of Brahms and Dvorak, but also demonstrates Sinigagalia’s major strengths-an individual type of lyricism and the ability to develop his material in original and unusual ways. The Romanza is wistful and nostalgic but never descends into sentimentality. The Humoresque is based on a distinctive staccato theme which the composer combines with a subsidiary horn melody to great effect.

The Violin Concerto was written at the end of the composer’s Vienna period. While influences of Brahms and Dvorak still exist, it can safely be said that the work shows great originality and that the two elder composers would have been proud of Sinigaglia. The opening of the concerto is very exciting, with a first subject that is both sweeping and gentle by turns. Contrast is provided by the yearning second theme and the integration of the two is very imaginative. Beautiful writing for French horn is a Sinigagalia trait as is the interpolation of small Baroque and Classical phrases into what is otherwise very Romantic music. Both traits are evident here, as is the composer’s developmental ability, and the movement seems to end before the composer has exhausted all compositional possibilities.

The succeeding Adagio is truly inspired, with the main theme given out by the solo horn and beautifully taken up by the woodwinds and then by the soloist. While there is a more agitated central section the general effect throughout the movement is one of gentleness and serenity, and this makes the movement all the more effective. The succeeding Allegro vivo has a spirited and light-hearted opening which reminded me of the corresponding section of the Korngold Violin Concerto, but with Sinigaglia’s small archaisms added. Gradually the movement becomes more serious before leading to an energetic coda.

The Regenlied (Rain Song) for strings dates from 1910, long after Sinigaglia had returned to Italy. It is one of two works of Op. 35 (the other is an Étude-Caprice). While small it shows that the composer had grown since his Vienna days. There is a greater expressive ability and more concentrated use of musical material.

The only other current recording of Sinigaglia’s orchestral music is a live recording of the Violin Concerto from the fifties with Antonio Mosesti [review]. The TACTUS disc is also from a live concert but far more recent (2013). On the new disc Fernando Caida Greco plays the solo part in Op. 16 with great precision but does not ignore the emotional component and has a lovely tone. Laura Marzadori also does well with the difficult solo part in the Violin Concerto-her technique is near flawless and she adeptly handles the wide emotional range of the work. She projects well and has a real lyric sense, so important in Sinigaglia’s music. Marco Zuccarini has solid, if not inspiring control, of the Ferrara orchestra, who are clearly up to the task of projecting this Romantic music. Unfortunately, the Teatro Communale has a blunt, unsubtle acoustic and occasionally something of an aural haze, although this is somewhat compensated for by close miking of the soloists. Nevertheless, this is an important disc and hopefully presages further recordings of Sinigaglia’s orchestral music and greater attention to his music in general.

William Kreindler

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf


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