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Ethelbert Nevin
La Folia, August 2016

Lovely anti-Modernist slush: The grand violin Sonata could be Franck or Ravel. The billowing mid-century Quintet is dreamily Romantic. © 2016 La Folia Read complete review

MusicWeb International, November 2011

Alfano had a reputation for favouring high tessituras in his numerous operas. The same may be said of the violin part of the Sonata, lending the work not just a very distinctive sound, but also a feeling of luminosity and emotional intensity bordering on sensuality. Not surprisingly, it is a demanding work for the violinist, wonderfully handled by Darvarova…and no easy ride either for pianist Scott Dunn. Alfano revised the work in 1933, but this is the original version from a decade earlier, written at about the same time as, and on a par with, his excellent Cello Sonata.

Alfano was nearly seventy when he began writing what was to be his last chamber piece, the Piano Quintet in A flat. Though a work of great maturity, it is surprisingly reminiscent of the Sonata, at least in the violin writing, which again has a high tessitura. In the previous decade Alfano had been through a mainly neo-Classical phase, and in earlier times had even had avant-gardist tendencies, but the beautifully scored, superbly lyrical Quintet represented, in Dryden’s words, “a vehement reaction against atonal and dodecaphonic music”. The jubilant moderato con grazia middle movement has moments of folk, jazz and musical theatre, yet its startling heterogeneity coheres expertly. Not to be overshadowed, the finale is pervaded with an exotic oriental flavour. Overall, Alfano’s Piano Quintet is an inspired work of considerable originality, dulcet, optimistic, indelible. Well performed by the five experienced soloists of the ad hoc quintet, even if the ensemble playing occasionally alludes to an imperfect mutual familiarity.

The mellow, slightly Jewish-sounding Nenia and the cheery, sassy Scherzino, transcriptions made in 1935 by Enrico Pierangeli, make ideal encore pieces to bring the CD to a close. Sound quality is good throughout.

…this disc…should at least get things moving in the right direction for this underrated composer.

Julian Haylock
The Strad, November 2011

Considering these are world-premiere recordings, it is remarkable how totally inside Alfano’s distinctive idiom these outstanding musicians sound. Elmira Darvarova, a former concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera, plays with intoxicating tonal beauty and beguilingly sensuous phrasing, and is well matched by her colleagues in the Quintet… There’s atmospheric and well-balanced engineering from John Baker.

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, October 2011

Here the 1923 original version of the Violin Sonata is caught in full passionate radiance. The music sings and sings and sings. If you enjoy the Delius sonatas and the Walton violin concerto then seek this out without delay. The ideas are intrinsically good and the flow and dramatic schema make an ineluctable case. The music speaks without a tremor with its face looking into the light. The Piano Quintet was his last chamber work. It continues the style of the Sonata with exultantly cantabile magnificently weighted and paced. One might well think while hearing this glorious work of the romantic chamber music of Chausson, early Fauré, Joseph Marx and Korngold. The performance feels utterly committed—no half measures.

The CD ends with a bipartite piece also in a world premiere recording. There’s the elfin delight of the chuckling and light-suffused Nenia contrasted with the skippingly pregnant tension and sweetly liquid triumphal progress of the Scherzino.

Dr Konrad Dryden is to be congratulated on his outstanding liner-note. …he delivers an attentive, well-structured and detailed account of the music and its context. For now though let’s hope for more of the concert music.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2011

When the great conductor, Arturo Toscanini, walked out of the orchestra pit on the opening night of Puccini’s opera Turandot, just at that point where Franco Alfano’s completion began, marked the death-knell of Alfano’s reputation as a composer. To that point he had enjoyed a productive career as a pianist, teacher and composer, and there are recent signs of a reappraisal of his output. Here we have three world premiere recordings of major chamber works. The Violin Sonata, dating from 1923, is couched in the era of the late French Impressionists, its three movements—erotic in their sensuality—forming a substantial score lasting around half and hour. Throughout the piano is an equal partner to a violin score that calls for outgoing virtuosity, the work just lacking the immediately memorable melodic material we find in the Nenia and Scherzino. These come in Enrico Pierangeli’s transcriptions of pieces taken from Alfano’s Vocalizzi nello stile moderno written in1933. It was a further twelve years before he completed the Piano Quintet, a score that sought to redress the atonality that had overtaken music. Think of Delius in his most exotic scores and you have a parallel. As with the violin sonata, the robust first movement is as long as the sum of the two succeeding movements. The excellent duo of Elmira Darvarova—the first female concertmaster of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra—and pianist, Scott Dunn, are joined by Mary Ann Mumm and Craig Mumm as second violin and viola, with Samuel Magill as the cellist. They have the rapport of a long-established group, though I guess they came together for this recording. Certainly Alfano could hardly hope for more dedicated or passionate champions. Good sound.

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