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Peter Dale ponders the music of Pizzetti

CD Review

Ildebrando Pizzetti died in 1968. Like his contemporary Respighi, he set about establishing a body of Italian music independent once more of opera. Pizzetti's late-Romanticism hardly sounds innovatory now but, given the huge presences of an operatic century from Rossini all the way to Mascagni looking over his shoulder, one can understand what he was trying to achieve.

His music certainly avoids sounding anything operatic, or even like Puccini in his orchestral mode, but it is theatrical nonetheless –the big, big themes, the intimate close-ups (of oboe and cor anglais for example)and the lushness of the orchestral colour suggest not only the theatre but also the cinema. It comes as no surprise therefore to find that the first of these pieces is a prelude to D'Annunzio's version of the classic Greek play Phedre, and the last is music for the same author's film Cabiria. This last is a powerful piece for baritone and chorus which sets brutal words invoking a feast of human flesh for a terrible Moloch. Given the complementary images on the screen, the effect would be very strong indeed.

The central piece is Pizzetti's piano concerto 'Songs of the High Season'. It tends to episodic structure (in the manner of a film?) but nevertheless achieves a huge sense of splendour and intense emotion without ever seeming swollen, let alone bombastic, especially in the slow movement which has all the ardour of Rachmaninov at times. Elsewhere, spare Gregorian-like themes (shades of Respighi?) and Saint-Saens-like dazzle combine to produce a very impressive piece which certainly wants to overwhelm you if it can.

Both Susanna Stefani and Boris Statsenko are superb in their solo roles. Unfashionably big-hearted though it is, the orchestra and conductor clearly relish the music too.

Copyright © Peter Dale, May 26th 1999

Piano Concerto etc

Susanna Stefani, piano
Boris Statsenko, baritone
Stadtischer Opernchor, Chemnitz
Robert Schumann-Philharmonie/Oleg Caetani

Marco Polo 8.225058                             DDD


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