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Italian Piano Quintets With A Rare Premiere

 

Perrachio/Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Piano Quintets

David Korevaar, piano. Carpe Diem String Quartet: Amy Galluzzo, Marisa Ishikawa, violins. Korine Fujiwara, viola. Ariana Nelson, cello. Da Vinci Classics C00697 Total Time:  60:16 Recording:   ****/**** Performance: ****/****

 

Italian composition in the early 20th-Century tends to be more aligned with extended Romanticism and Impressionist approaches.  Often there is also a nod to the early days of Italy’s great Baroque-era instrumental music and many of the composers in the first decades of the 20th Century were in a sense serving to revitalize that tradition in new musical language, though less avantgarde than elsewhere in Europe.  In this new release, listeners have an opportunity to explore some of this style through the work of two composers influenced by this period of Italian musical history.  Most will be familiar with the work of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968).  Apart from a popular guitar concerto, his music has more recently began to appear again on recordings.  His influence reaches well into the last century through at least two of his students: Andre Previn and John Williams.  The other composer here, Luigi Perrachio (1883-1966), is far less known today but was a prolific composer, known as an educator and performer based in Turin.  In this new release, listeners can explore two piano quintets pairing unique responses to music post WWI. 


The Perrachio quintet is from 1919.  The composer was a bit enamored with French Impressionism and the music of Debussy and Ravel, even spending time with the latter and the noted pianist Ricardo Vines.  The quintet is cast in four movements with the opening one being the weightiest, and lengthiest of the piece.  The music is quite dramatic and there are turns of phrase that flirt with pentatonic scales, but stay mostly within an expanded Romantic language.  The thematic ideas also provide an additional avenue of interest here with strong writing across the ensemble enhanced by fascinating harmonic writing.  A playful scherzo follows here with a witty exploration of the famous motif from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  The way the melodic ideas are organized come close to being a complete tone row, but the color is still in accessible tonal writing.  After this, a more idyllic slow movement provides a bit of respite.  Now the Beethoven motive is cast into a birdcall which appears in the piano.  Strings intertwine together here in gorgeous writing.  The finale pulls these various threads together with further hints of pentatonicism and modal writing.  Perrachio also like to insert local folk music rhythms as a color in his music and some of that can be discerned incorporated here in the finale as well.  The Perrachio is a real find in this world premiere recording.  The music has been published as of 2022 in a new edition through encouragement by David Korevaar.  Hopefully other quintets will take up this engaging work.


Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s first piano quartet (Op. 69) was composed in 1932 and was a work that the composer often toured with at the time.  As one might suspect, it is an engaging and dramatic work that points to the composer’s brilliant orchestrational style.  The piece also incorporates references to his Tuscan homeland as well as his Jewish roots.  The four-movement work is laid out fairly traditionally in structure, but it is his interesting tonal organization here that stands out a bit.  In some respects, it is an extension of Mahler’s harmonic writing with the way tonality serves to shift across the composition (progressive tonality).  Slight motives get developed into broader themes that highlight the composer’s engaging lyricism.  Composed against the rising Anti-Semitism of fascist Italy, the work also seems to hint at this rising unsettled period.  One hears this through moments like a funeral march which adds a sense of unease that is hinted at even in the work’s opening bars.  It is quite devastating in contrast and the following scherzo tries to make some light of this, but the dance does feel a bit nervous in its interesting shifts in harmony and melodic direction in its struggle to come out from under the heavy boot. 


These are quite engaging chamber works with music written in an accessible language.  The voices here are very much established stylistically and give listeners an intimate entry into their respective musical language.  One can hear the hints of the traditional trends of the day being expanded here in these pieces.  The harmonic writing in both works is also quite fascinating. 


The ensemble here gives committed performances that are solid and engaging music making.  The gorgeous lyrical writing is handled beautifully here across the ensemble.  Articulations across the ensemble also are carefully matched to help provide a unified vision of the sound world of both pieces.  The sound also aids the performance as well with the piano feeling more at the back, center of the sound picture with the quartet imaged well in front of that here.  Balance then works quite well to bring out the different colors of the writing without the piano overwhelming the strings.  This is a solid release with excellent pieces well worth discovering!

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