About this Recording
8.553704 - RESPIGHI, O.: Piano Music (Scherbakov) - Ancient Airs and Dances / 6 Pieces / Piano Sonata in F Minor

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) Piano Music

Ottorino Respighi was born in Bologna in 1879 and studied the violin and viola at the Liceo Musicale there from 1891 with Federico Sarti. At the same time he took lessons in composition, at first from the musicologist Luigi Torchi, who had returned to Bologna from the Liceo Rossini in Pesaro in the same year, and later from the composer Giuseppe Martucci, who was director of the Liceo in Bologna until 1902. In 1899 Respighi completed his studies and the following year went to St Petersburg as principal viola-player at the Imperial opera. In Russia, where he spent the seasons of 1901-1902 and 1903-1904, he took lessons in composition and orchestration from Rimsky-Korsakov.

During the first decade of the new century Respighi won a reputation as a performer, while pursuing his growing interest in earlier music and in composition. In Berlin in 1908 and 1909 he attended lectures by Max Bruch, but to relatively little effect. The influence of Rimsky-Korsakov, however, remained with him, guiding his bold use of orchestral colour in the music he wrote. These years brought a series of compositions. In 1902 a piano concerto of his was performed in Bologna and his Notturno of 1905 was played in New York under Rodolfo Ferrari. In the same year his opera Rè Enzo was staged in Bologna, to be followed five years later by Semirama, these operas proving successful enough to bring about his appointment in 1913 as a teacher of composition at the Liceo Santa Cecilia in Rome

In 1919 Respighi married the singer Elsa Olivieri-Sangiacomo and in 1924 he became director of the Santa Cecilia, resigning two years later to devote himself to composition, although he continued to teach and to perform in concerts and recitals as a conductor and as an accompanist to his wife. He died in 1936 at the house he had named after one of his most famous works, I Pini, referring to the symphonic poems Pini di Roma (Pines of Rome), one of three effective and now familiar works of his associated with aspects of the city, Feste Romane (Roman Festivals) and Fontane di Roma (Fountains of Rome).

In 1917 Respighi published his first set of arrangements of ancient dances and airs, the Antiche arie e danze per liuto, orchestral versions of earlier Italian lute music, transcribed from tablature. He made further arrangements from the same source for piano. As in the arrangement of Rossiniana for Dyagilev's La boutique fautasque, he remains generally faithful to the original harmonies, avoiding the more radical procedures used by Stravinsky in Pulcinella. The keyboard-writing, however, is designed for the modern piano, using with discretion the fuller possibilities of the instrument The transcriptions start with Balletto detto Il Conte Orlando, by Simone Molinaro, who spent his career in his native Genoa. Molinaro's first book of music for lute, in tablature, was published in Venice in 1599. The dance, in D major, frames a contrasting minor section. It is followed by a Villanella, the work of an anonymous composer of the late sixteenth century, transcribed with contrasted tone-colours. The Gagliarda is taken from the work of Vincenzo Galilei, father of the scientist Galileo and a scholar who led the way in Italian music to dramatic monody in a search to revive the ancient Greek union of music and poetry. The dance includes a central episode over a repeated bass. The Italiana is from an anonymous source of later in the same century, a gentle dance, lightly accompanied. The fifth piece is an anonymous Siciliana, to which a running accompaniment is added, assuming greater power when this turns into accompanying octaves and the embellishment of rapid scales is added. The Passacaglia, with its repeated pattern, is transcribed from a work of 1692 by Conte Ludovico Roncalli, who published in that year in Bergamo his Capricci armonici sopra la chitarra spagnola (Harmonic Caprices for the Spanish Guitar). These six pieces were published by Ricordi in 1919 To these are added a transcription of the Campanae Parisienses (Les cloches de Paris/The Bells of Paris), attributed to Marin Mersenne and drawn by the late nineteenth century musicologist Oscar Chilesotti from Jean-Baptiste Besard's Thesaurus harmonicus, novus partus of 1617. Besard's compilations are of particular interest for their inclusion, in French lute tablature, of a quantity of lute music by contemporary composers, Italian, French and English. There follows a Bergamasca, a dance, with its repeated harmonic and rhythmic pattern, by Bernardo Gianoncelli, known as il Bernardello and dated to 1650.

Respighi's Valse Caressante is in the popular salon style that its title suggests, presenting very characteristic contrasting thematic material in a work that is finely crafted, however light its content. It is followed by his Canone, one of a group of pieces published in 1936, in a lyrical interpretation of the technical device suggested in its title. Notturno reflects the influence of Debussy in its reflection of the serene beauty of the night, leading, in its central section, to a climax of grandiose arpeggios and spread chords, before the return of the opening mood of tranquillity. A Minuet to follows, a neo- classical interpretation of the traditional dance-form, with an added ingredient of excited agitation in its trio section. Respighi's Studio makes a particularly French use of more elaborate piano textures. It is here followed by his Intermezzo-Serenata, a gently mellifluous piece, with a singing melody emerging through an arpeggio accompaniment. This is drawn from Respighi's first opera, Rè Enzo.

The Sonata in F minor, published posthumously fifty years after Respighi's death, is almost operatic in style, at least in its melodic content. The exposition of the first movement offers two contrasting subjects, in the tonic key and, with a triplet accompaniment, in the key of D flat major. There is a central development of this material, which then returns in the customary recapitulation. The slow movement, very properly, moves to the related key of A flat major, with a singing melody accompanied by the triplet rhythms of an inner part. New keys are explored in a movement that always retains the singing quality of its melodies The Sonata ends with an Allegretto in B flat minor, a movement that introduces an element of excited agitation in its first thematic material, contrasted with a more lyrical theme.

The Tre Preludi sopra melodie gregoriane (Three Preludes on Gregorian Melodies) are dated 1921, but were apparently written two years earlier, completed on the island of Capri during the summer of 1919. They reflect Respighi's new interest in Gregorian chant, an enthusiasm aroused by his former student, now his wife, Elsa Olivieri-Sangiacomo, an interest that brought, in 1921, the Concerto Gregoriano for violin and four years later the Concerto in modo misolidio for piano and orchestra. The three Gregorian preludes in 1925 became the first three movements of the orchestral Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows). The Gregorian melodies are used with great freedom, although they form the melodic, modal basis of the three pieces. The first moves from an opening Phrygian mode, exploring different material in its central section, while maintaining the same general mood of meditation. The stormy second prelude allows the Gregorian melody at first to bass octaves, its relatively sinister opening section followed by a more lyrical central passage. The return of the opening leads to an expressive Largo, with contrasts of register, as one echoes another. Something of the earlier agitation returns in the concluding section. The third prelude opens with a melody heard against a repeated note, a continuing feature in music of contemplative serenity.

Konstantin Scherbakov
Konstantin Scherbakov was born in 1963 in Barnaul, Siberia, where he received his first piano instruction. In 1978 he began study with Irina Naumova at the Gnesin School in Moscow and from 1981 to 1986 was a pupil of Lev Naumov at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. He has won prizes at the Montreal International Competition, the Busoni Piano Competition in Bolzano and in 1983 won first prize at the Moscow Rachmaniov Competition. Other awards include second prize in 1991 at the Concours Géza Anda in Zurich and Géza Anda Television Prize for his interpretation of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto. In the same year he won second prize at the International Competition Premio Valentino Bucchi in Rome, a competition dedicated to music of the twentieth century. Konstantin Scherbakov has given concerts in over a hundred cities in Russia and also has regular engagements in France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Czechoslovakia. His recitals in Italy have included a cycle of Prokofiev Piano Sonatas at a festival devoted to the work of that composer and a four recital cycle of piano music by Rachmaninov. He has recorded extensively at home and abroad and in addition to his concert activities is a member of the teaching staff of Moscow Conservatory, where he is assistant to Lev Naumov.

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