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Verlingieri ritrovata NEOS12126
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Gianluca VERLINGIERI (b. 1976)
Musica Ritrovata
rec. 2012-2019
Reviewed as a digital download from a press preview
NEOS 12126 [59:26]

The motivating idea for this collection of pieces by the Italian composer Gianluca Verlingieri is that of “analysis and resynthesis”. If that mouthful hasn’t got you running for the hills, let me attempt to explain, as best I can, what that means in terms of the music you will hear on this recording. The composer cites his compatriot Berio’s statement that the best way to analyse a piece of music is to compose another piece in response to it. Think of Mussorgsky writing Pictures at an Exhibition in response to paintings by Hartmann but instead of the inspiration being a painting (or a poem or landscape) it is another piece of music. Another example might be the finale of Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ symphony: inimitably Mozart, but clearly a response to exposure to the music of Handel and Bach.

The title of this CD, Musica Ritrovata, is taken from Ligeti and provides an important clue to Verlingieri’s style. It means re-found or rediscovered music or, as the composer playfully suggests, reimagined. Music of the past, often in extremely fractured form or having undergone some process of development, haunts every piece. Sometimes the influencing composers are named, as in the pieces deriving from Schubert and Ghedini, sometimes they struck me like half-remembered snatches of melody or harmony.

If this all sounds rather daunting, Verlingieri’s musical voice is both playful and affectionate. His love for the music that lies somewhere behind these scores radiates from every bar.

My personal response to this collection of pieces was that it is a bit of a mixed bag with the good extremely good, but some of it left me rather nonplussed. There is a certain irony that the pieces that impressed me most were for the most conventional ensembles – the two works for piano trio and one for string quartet. I don’t think this was because I have any problem with unorthodox instrument combinations - one of the other standout tracks, Alchymiae, is for the odd but surprisingly delicious duo of piano and vibraphone - it is just that I found that the idea of “analysis and resynthesis” came most vividly to life as a musical experience in those works.

Whilst I defy anyone to hear anything of God Save the Queen in the second of the Four Songs for a Mad Composer (the influence of Maxwell Davies’ Farewell to Stromness and, in particular, his An Orkney Wedding and Sunrise is more audible later in the piece), it is immense fun to listen to.

The Schubert-Fragmente are probably both the most substantial and best of the pieces included. That is if substantial is the right word for such, well, fragmentary and allusive music. The spirit of Schubert does hover obliquely over proceedings without ever being directly quoted or, mercifully, emerging in a kitschy way, something, according to a quote from the composer, he was particularly at pains to avoid. An ideal way to listen to this piece would be in between the Schubert piano trios (even though the Schubert that has been re-synthesised was a passage from the Scherzo of the String Quintet). It is full of stimulating refractions and reflections without losing its own personality. This is also a more serious work than the Four Songs for a Mad Composer with a distinct air of Winterreise about it.

The Italian composer, Giorgio Ghedini (1892-1965) lurks behind the Ghedini-Fragmente. I am not familiar with his music so I am unable to say how like or unlike his music, Verlingieri’s piece is but it is a beautiful piece. Apparently Ghedini’s music is nearer the surface than in the other pieces. The structure is of a theme and variations. It is, as a result, more directly melodic without losing that sense of mischievous creativity that enlivens this CD. Another consequence is that the piece is overtly emotional which together with the Schubert Fragments serves to anchor the programme.

The most recent piece, Vintage, dates from 2019. It is described as a passacaglia for baroque organ. In style, it is rather like a Gothic fever dream in which half-remembered snatches of organ music float. These snippets form and then break apart constantly in an obsessional manner that mirrors the endless going over of a melody that is the basis of a passacaglia. This process becomes more frantic as the music proceeds, constantly trying to find its way to a grand Baroque climax but never quite reaching it.

I was less impressed by the solo pieces respectively for basset horn and augmented trombone (no, I haven’t a clue what one is either!). This is probably my own personal lack of interest in such pieces which always seem like test pieces for exams to my ears. Both these pieces are expertly written but I had a feeling that I heard it all before and not in the sense of echoes of other pieces! Others might not share my prejudices and enjoy these pieces more than I did.

I will except Labirinti for solo piano and Shift for solo accordion from this mild criticism of the solo pieces. The latter is full of good humour including asking the player to tap out a dance rhythm on the keys of the instrument. It manages to also find a strange, rarefied loveliness in the stratosphere of the accordion’s range.

The Labirinti della Memoria or labyrinths of memory, referred to in the title of Verlingieri’s excellent set of piano pieces, he describes as the “collective” musical memory of not just Western music but all sorts of influences ranging from Africa to Cossack folk songs. This results in a piece that wears the complexity of its compositional processes lightly and elegantly. It beautifully written for the piano. As with all the other compositions included in this composer portrait, it is played with real care and devotion and given a top-notch recording.

Verlingieri’s art is not the sort to storm the heavens but works in a quieter, more subtle way. Pay it due attention and the listener will be more than recompensed. These are the kind of pieces that get under the skin. I would love to hear what his ear and imagination would come up with writing for the orchestra and I hope he gets the chance. In the meantime, this stimulating disc will give a lovely introduction to his art.

David McDade

Élegos IV (2005/2017), for basset horn alone [5:34]
Michele Marelli, basset horn
Schubert-Fragmente (2006-07), for violin, cello and piano [6:42]
Trio Debussy
Shift (2008), for solo accordion [9:15]
Ghenadie Rotari, accordion
Alchymiae - Ricercari upon “Ave Maris Stella” (2009), for vibraphone and piano [5:57]
Simone Beneventi, vibraphone · Emanuele Torquati, piano
IronicOnirico (2010), sonic drama for augmented trombone [6:46]
Michele Lomuto, augmented tenor trombone
Four Songs for a Mad Composer (2015), for string quartet [5:52]
Quartetto Lyskamm
Labirinti della memoria, book I (2004-‘05), for piano [5:06]
Gianluca Cascioli, piano
Vintage (2019), passacaglia for baroque organ [7:15]
Bálint Karosi, organ
Ghedini-Fragmente (2015), for violin, cello and piano [6:59]
Trio Debussy
rec. 15 April 2017, Madonna del Colletto” Sanctuary, Roletto, Turin Italy (Elegos); 30 April 2017, “Giovanni Mosca” Concert Hall, Cuneo Italy(Schubert, Ghedini); 5 December 2016 and 2, 5 September 2019, METS-Studios, Cuneo Italy (Shift, Alchymiae, IronicOniricio); 17 April 2018, “Ghislieri” Hall of Academia Montis Regalis, Mondově Italy (4 songs); 18 January 2012, Pecetto Torinese, Italy (Labirinti); 23 August 2019, First Lutheran Church, Boston, USA (Vintage)

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