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Taking note of Alfredo Casella




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Most composers progress in terms of a style with what they can feel. In the 18th century it was much less of a problem, and even the general progression of the 19th century's romanticism appeared to divide between those who used it conveniently and the progressives who tussled with it and gave it a kick forwards. Composers born late enough in the 1800s to be active into our century must have felt increasing pressure towards the emancipation of dissonance.

Alfredo Casella was one such - born in 1883 and died in 1947. That slice of time felt a range of severe tremors in music. Not unnaturally, Casella explored and his output falls into three categories: romanticism, experimental, and a blend that admitted his favoured ingredients in clear-cut forms. The two works here are several years into the final phase with a resultant confidence of manner. (click here for music - Finale to Trio)

Alfredo Casella. Copyright (c) 1999 Koch SchwannWhilst neoclassicism can tempt a composer to an impersonal chatter of notes, Casella had more than that and used it intensely, especially in the slow movements, with a considerable depth of expression. Particularly noticeable is the Concerto's affecting middle movement that breathes noble melancholy. (click here for music) The only real flaw is a B movie sequence on a pedal point in the first movement that suggests a posse at full gallop. But unfolding of the following Andante cantabile is of very different quality.

In the Niagaran torrent that represents serious music in this century, one Italian composer writing several intense works some sixty years ago will not count for much. Even so, he was a force in Italian music in the 20s and 30s and has left a small legacy that should not be overlooked.

Copyright © Basil Ramsey, September 22nd 1999 

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