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Brahms Sinigaglia C00550

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Piano Sonata in C major No.1 Op.1 (1853)
Leone Sinigaglia (1868-1944)
Study No.2 in D major
Fleurette d'Avril
Air de Ballet
Album leaves Op.7
Two Piano pieces Op.24
Edoardo Turbil (piano)
rec. 2021, Villa Bossi, Bodio Lomnago, Italy

The music of Leone Sinigaglia is completely new to me; even his name is one that I have only read in passing so I was curious if this was just a recital to introduce some of his music or if there was some link between these two composers that I was unaware of. The informative booklet notes by Chiara Bertoglio give the answer; Turin-born Sinigaglia had achieved success in his homeland and was acquainted with many of Italy's finest musicians but it was one of those, violinist-composer Antonio Bazzini, who suggested he broaden his horizons and visit Vienna, the great centre of music. It was here in 1894 that he met and was befriended and mentored by Johannes Brahms and it may well have been this link that helped get some of Sinigaglia's vocal works published by Leipzig publishers Breitkopf and Härtel. His music was performed by the likes of Arturo Toscanini who often included the Piedmontese dances and suite Piemonte in his concerts as did Sir John Barbirolli and Wilhelm Furtwängler.

The piano works seem to have had no such champions and though it may be that in Italy his Album leaves are slightly better known as Bertoglio suggests it is nice to make his acquaintance courtesy of pianist Edoardo Turbil who has done considerable research into the composer as part of his Julliard DMA dissertation and who has uncovered some unpublished manuscripts from the Turin Conservatory. He plays four of these pieces alongside two short sets of published works. The Album leaves are all short, and include A un fiore do campo and nostalgia both of which are songs without words, the subtle dance of the engaging Madrigale rustico and two faster pieces – Così va il mondo, Bimba mia and Scherzo, jaunty and vivacious respectively. The two piano pieces op.24 were published with the German title Klavierstücke and their heritage is evident; the vigorous and narrative Capriccio that opens with toccata-like figurations before relaxing into lyrical mood, falls into the Brahms, Schumann camp with some of the Dvořák's harmony. Sinigaglia took lessons from Dvořák at the turn of the century and the second of the pieces Humoreske certainly has something of an infectious Czech dance about it; the melancholy and quite touching central section is a slow, folk-like waltz. The unpublished works are as impressive; a study whose spinning song like outer sections bookmark a central section that is a study in balancing chordal textures, a busy improvisation that has a little of Chopin about it, its swirling figurations wonderfully crafted by Turbil and two charming pieces that bring Chaminade to mind, fleurette d'avril and Air de ballet the latter of which is a playful scherzo.

All of these pieces are marvellously laid out for the piano and all of them make me wonder that I am hearing this idiomatic music for the first time, especially the op.24 piano pieces which would grace any piano recital. Turbil places them alongside a thrilling, youthful performance of Brahms' early C major Sonata. He revels in contrasts and the generally brisk tempi are matched by equal poetry and sensitive rubato in more lyrical moments and his rhythmic vitality is gripping, not only in the monumental final movements but also in the interplay of the opening movement's development section. He brings an imaginative range of colour especially in the variations that comprise the second movement and the whole is blissfully sunny and optimistic.

This is a terrific recital; I had not heard of Edoardo Turbil before but his list of awards and collaborations is impressive. He studied for many years with the wonderful pianist Maria Tipo and has been praised by the likes of Paul Badura-Skoda. My humble praise can be added to that; I hope to hear more both of this exciting pianist and the piano music of Leone Sinigaglia.

Rob Challinor

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