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Calum MacDonald
BBC Music Magazine, February 2012

The brooding Violin Sonata and the sunnier, ultra-civilized Piano Trio reinforce Pizzetti’s reputation as one of the major Italian composers of the 20th century. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, January 2011

Pizzetti will be known, if, indeed, he is known by you at all, for his orchestral Suite: La Pisanelle (1913) and his Messa di Requiem (1922), both of which have been recorded several times. This disk brings together three very fine pieces of chamber music which are too good to miss.

The Piano Trio starts with a very relaxed introductory passage, where the three instruments introduce themselves, after which the music erupts in a stormy first subject, which is broad and richly lyrical. This gives way to a more restrained second subject and by now we’re half way through the movement. It’s obvious that Pizzetti is going to take his time saying what he has to say. The development section is turbulent and it continues in this high-powered mode to the end. This is big music with big things to say. It is tempered by a simple slow movement which is song-like and gently lyrical. There is a Mediterranean warmth about much of this. The finale is more New World than Old for there a freer spirit is abroad. This is the kind of open-air easiness you find in Copland, but doesn’t sound a bit like the American master; rather it’s the mode of expression. Although this is obviously a very serious piece, Pizzetti manages to balance the light and shade. He never overburdens the instruments so that the textures remain clean—each line is clearly defined and perfectly audible. At 30 minutes it seems too short but it leaves you wanting more which is no bad thing.

The Violin Sonata is obviously the work of a younger man, for it tends to throw caution to the wind and grasp the musical challenge with both hands. It never stops to wonder if what is being written is going to be too much. Whereas the first movement of the Trio was turbulent, here there is violence, and it’s almost relentless in its headlong rush. But Pizzetti is a lyrical composer so he is always mindful of the need to ensure sufficient melodic material to carry his musical argument. The slow movement is a very fervent outpouring. It could almost be by Korngold, so opulent is the expression. This is balanced by a more bucolic finale, which still has an over-abundance of warm lyricism. Again, the spirit of Korngold can be discerned in some of the writing.

These two works are very fine examples of a side to Pizzetti of which I was unaware. They are excellent examples of that late-romantic, post-Great War, style, which was favoured by many, as Stravinsky turned to neo-classicism and Schönberg invented serialism. They are strong pieces and are given very powerful advocacy by Rásonyi, Fenyö and Ertungealp.

The Tre Canti are lighter. Certainly they are without the intensity of, and are more classical in feel than, the other works but they are still quite powered pieces. They make a nicely relaxed end to a very interesting disk of rare chamber music, in committed performances. If you’re into music of the late-romantic period then this, obviously, is for you. It’s a valuable addition to the ever-growing recorded repertoire of chamber music. The recording and notes are very good and it all goes to make a very desirable issue.

James M. Keller
High Fidelity, November 2010

If you choose to ignore Pizzetti’s Piano Trio, I don’t blame you; but in so doing, you’ll be passing up a composition that boasts considerable charms. Gatti’s book proclaims that the work “is permeated with the joy he feels at a newly-found domestic happiness.” He continues: “In this work the melody broadens and develops with a continuity that is undisturbed by pauses or hesitations. The characteristic melancholy patches of colour have disappeared and the sky is serene to the farthest point of the horizon. There are no dark corners; the light penetrates in every direction; we think of a man waking up after a restless, tortured sleep and raising a hymn of thanksgiving to God.” The musicologist John C.G. Waterhouse, who provided extensive and detailed notes for the Naxos CD, confirms that Pizzetti made the first sketch for this trio only three days before his wedding to his second wife, Irene (the aforementioned “Rirì”).

Gatti’s description does suggest an essential aspect of the piece, although I’m less sure than he is that melancholy is entirely eradicated. All thee movements are of slow or moderate tempo, except for a stretch of vivace in the finale; but even that is only quick through the overlay of figuration, and its movement remains essentially placid. That finale, by the way, carries the title “Rapsodia di Settembre,” possibly (Waterhouse speculates) alluding to some incident that cemented the composer’s relationship with Rirì. In any case, this relaxed trio shows something of the sustained, tensile quality we find in Gabriel Fauré; or perhaps a composer of the next level down, such as Reynaldo Hahn, would be a more accurate comparison. Themes are finely wrought but not ultimately memorable. Still, the piece casts a pleasant spell redolent of twilight.

The Naxos musicians…show a harder edge. I suspect this emanates at least in part from the personal style of the violinist, whose playing strikes me as unsettled and not always precise. They seem intent on moving the music along, an understandable impulse given its laid-back character. The Naxos CD also includes the Tre Canti, here played on violin rather than cello (the composer authorized either option); but, again, the violin-playing tends toward wildness in music that is esthetically disciplined. Completing this disc is Pizzetti’s Violin Sonata (from 1918–19), an end-of-war-time piece that is sometimes more edgy; but even here Pizzetti’s inclinations seem at heart lyrical.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2010

‘Doubtless the greatest musician in Italy today’, wrote one of the eminent Italian critics of the day when speaking of Idebrando Pizzetti. Well, it takes all sorts to make a world, as at the time Puccini, Respighi and Malipiero were still alive, but it shows the support enjoyed by Pizzetti in certain quarters. It was certainly not to last, and today he has been largely sidelined even in his native country. Yet, as this disc of his chamber music shows, he was a highly gifted composer who could achieve readily attractive melodic ideas in the late-Romantic style. Now with a growing interest in those composers, Pizzetti may yet have his day. The highly active opening movement of the Piano Trio is indicative of music that in the second movement of the Violin Sonata achieves the erotic intensity that we find in Szymanowski’s violin writing. There is also moments of quirkiness that show Pizzetti looking forward to the time when Romanticism would be replaced by something less soft centered. Both scores are substantial at over half an hour, the piano of equal importance in the sonata and the Tre Canti for violin and piano. The present performances were recorded in 1994 and have already appeared on the Marco Polo label. Technical they are generally very good, the engineers just bringing an edge to Leila Rasonyi’s violin tone. Otherwise the balance between instruments is good, Alpaslan Ertungealp’s piano playing both subtle and supple.

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