Dietrich-Brahms-Schumann, Strauss, Bartók: Violin Sonatas, F. Gulli & E. Cavallo


New Da Vinci Historical Series

  • Artist(s): Enrica Cavallo, Franco Gulli
  • Composer(s): Albert Dietrich, Béla Bartók, Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss, Robert Schumann
  • EAN Code: 7.93611610583
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics, Da Vinci Classics Historical
  • Editor: Edmondo Filippini, Luca Chierici
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Piano, Violin
  • Period: Modern, Romantic
SKU: C00158 Category:

Additional information

Weight 0.10 kg
Dimensions 14 × 1 × 12.5 cm



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New Da Vinci Historical Series

Listening to a live recording of a concert is an enthralling moment of communion with the artists, even after years. No studio recording, where the result aimed at making an unnatural highest perfection, can communicate the electricity of a “live” performance, even with some bumps in the road or without optimal sound conditions. With this series, we hope to revive the emotions that have accompanied our presence at the concert hall, in close proximity with great artists and great music.

Luca Chierici, Historical Series Artistic Director


Exactly one century ago, in 1918, after the end of World War I, the city of Trieste became part of the Kingdom of Italy, while the Austro-Hungarian Empire crumbled, along with many other vestiges of the ancien régime. The unification with Italy had long been desired by most of the inhabitants of Trieste, a city whose Italian identity was very pronounced; however, and undeniably, the long Austrian domination had also left its mark – and a deep one – on the culture and lifestyle of the city. Musically speaking, Trieste could boast the best of both the Italian and the Austro-Hungarian culture: the typically Italian feeling for operatic music, and for expressing in singing the deepest human passions (including the political ones), and the typically Austro-Hungarian fondness for instrumental music, and for the Hausmusizieren, the habit of playing chamber music together among friends. No less important for the city’s identity was its liminal position: many different cultures crossed each other and met at this pivotal harbour of the former Empire, favouring the encounter of German, Italian, Slavic and Hungarian languages and traditions.
It is within this context that violinist Franco Gulli (1926-2001) was born, and his life and music bore the indelible mark of these origins, even when the circumstances of his life brought him very far – both geographically and culturally – from his home town. Gulli was born to a family of musicians: his father, Franco sr., was a talented violinist in turn, who had studied in Prague with Ševčik and Mařák. Indeed, the original family name was Gulič, a Slovenian name, which was later Italianized into Gulli. Franco sr. and his wife, Mercede Zorzini, occasionally spoke German with each other; notwithstanding this, the family as a whole prided itself of its Italian identity, while absorbing the best from the other cultures which populated the city of Trieste in the early twentieth century.
As could be expected, both Franco jr. and his sister Giuliana grew up as musicians, receiving their first lessons from their parents; there are photographs of the entire family performing together, and even though the level of these performances was certainly well above average, the same scene could be observed in many other households of Trieste. The concept of chamber music as “a conversation between friends”, as Catherine Drinker Bowen defined it, remained indeed a constant feature in Gulli’s life: his international success as a solo performer did not prevent him from pursuing an equally successful career as a chamber musician, both in the Trio italiano d’archi (a string trio with violist Bruno Giuranna and cellist Amedeo Baldovino, later replaced by Giacinto Caramia) and, particularly, in a violin and piano duo with his wife Enrica Cavallo. As Caramia recalled, “There was an incredible feeling among us; we were three people with a single will”, and this was also, undoubtedly, due to the particularly endearing character of Gulli himself, whose amiability was praised by all who knew him. However, his first-class professional quality did not stop his enjoyment of the simple music-making which was so common in Trieste, as his nephew Federico Agostini was fond of telling: “I remember, in the living-room of our home, a performance of Strauss’ Sonata with aunt Enrica [Cavallo]. It was a performance for the family, and a performance which marked a milestone in the path I was starting to tread in turn”. It is the same Sonata which can be heard in this Da Vinci CD: the complexity and difficulty of its technical features are overcome with such ease by Gulli and Cavallo that it is not hard to imagine, when listening to it, how the perfect union of their musical wills could have mirrored their loving relationship within the family walls on the occasion mentioned by their nephew. Touchingly, this Sonata had been written by Richard Strauss (in 1887-8) at a time when the composer had just met his bride-to-be: possibly, the idea that this work somehow expressed the intense feelings of two lovers and future spouses was one of the reasons why the duo Gulli-Cavallo performed it so frequently. Moreover (and significantly, as concerns the programme presented in this CD), Strauss’ works had been very influential in Béla Bartók’s youthful musical experiences, and some traits of his style are discernible even in some of Bartók’s later compositions.
In fact, in the artistic milieu in which Gulli and Cavallo belonged, music was a rather natural expression of personal and human relationships. Following Gulli’s death, a fascinating compilation of memories by his friends and colleagues was published, bearing witness to his artistic legacy, but also – and possibly foremost – to his gentle and kind personality. The great Italian violinist Salvatore Accardo wrote of Gulli’s “great sensitivity”, and of the noble traits of his musicianship, while Gianni Gori stated: “Gulli had chosen to follow ‘the reasons of music’, and only these, refusing all compromises with the star-system and with the recording majors”; he cared only for “the service to music and for music”, and was gifted with “a gentlemanly aplomb and a fascinating personality, lacking only a primadonna-like ambition”. Both Gori and his former student Gisella Curtolo concurred in stating that Gulli could never be heard belittling a colleague or pupil, and that he deeply respected all those with whom he interacted.
These traits of Gulli’s personality are found also in his playing, and correspond particularly well to the works performed with his wife. In fact, the FAE Sonata which opens the programme was a collective homage by three composers of the nineteenth century to their common friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim. In 1853, Robert Schumann, along with his student Albert Dietrich and his younger colleague Johannes Brahms decided to join their creative forces in composing a four-movement sonata for violin and piano, whose motifs are based on the notes F, A and E, corresponding to the initials of Joachim’s motto, Frei aber einsam (“free but lonely”). The premiere of the work was given at a soiree in the Schumanns’ household, with Clara Schumann at the piano and the dedicatee at the violin; Joachim was also asked to guess which composer had written each individual movement, and, apparently, he succeeded with ease. In fact, the youthful energy of Brahms’ Scherzo (which has become, in time, the best known of the four movements), the intertwining of poetry, fantasy and vivacity of Schumann’s style, and the expressive and intense quality of Dietrich’s large-scale first movement clearly express the personal traits of the three musicians. Gulli and Cavallo’s performance manages to convey the individual features of the four movements and of their composers, while also transmitting a musical cogency and unity which succeeds in presenting the Sonata as a unified whole.
Joachim’s family, as Schumann’s and as Gulli’s, was in fact a very musical clan; Joachim’s great-niece, Jelly d’Aranyi, was a gifted violinist in turn, who belonged in the Hungarian tradition. For her, Béla Bartók wrote his two “numbered” violin Sonatas (the first in 1921 and the second in 1922), and premiered them both in London with her. Possibly due to the Hungarian origins of both musicians, the frequently-found allusions to features of the Hungarian musical folklore which populate many of Bartók’s works are particularly frequent here; in particular, the second (and last) movement of the Second Sonata, recorded in this Da Vinci CD, alludes in both rhythm and sound to the atmospheres of the Hungarian countryside. This resonates very vividly with the Gulli and Cavallo duo; in fact, Cavallo had been one of the favourite pupils of Ilonka Deckers-Küszler, a famous Hungarian-born pedagogue who taught for years in Milan, and who numbered among her students musicians such as Annie Fischer, Edith Farnadi, and later Alexander Lonquich, to name but few. Deckers-Küszler had been educated at the Budapest Academy in the first decades of the twentieth century, and frequently mentioned her chance meetings with Bartók, whom the students had uncourteously nicknamed “The Wooden Prince” (alluding to the title of one of his works and to the stiff countenance of the composer). Bartók himself, moreover, had performed this same Second Violin Sonata in 1940, in Washington DC, together with his colleague, the violinist Jószef Szigeti; and Szigeti had been a major source of inspiration for the young Gulli, at first through his recordings, and later through direct teaching (when Szigeti settled in Switzerland after leaving America). Thus, both Gulli and Cavallo could offer a joint and compelling reading of this work, not only owing to their musical gifts and skill, but also for the direct link which joined each of them to the original sources of Bartók’s music and of its interpretation.
Chamber music, thus, was a favourite locus for establishing meaningful human relationships, and a means for expressing them beyond what words could convey. This was the case for Joachim’s friends, for his family (including Jelly d’Aranyi), as well as for Strauss’ love for his future wife, the soprano Pauline de Ahna, and for Bartók’s friendship with Szigeti and d’Aranyi herself; and it certainly was the case for the couple and duo Gulli-Cavallo. These human and musical values formed also the core of Gulli’s teaching, as recalled by his pupil Curtolo: “He not only encouraged us to play chamber music, but taught us to respect the pianist’s role, [refusing] the primadonna attitudes of the ‘solo violinist’ versus the pianist. […] His teaching was grounded on the idea that, in chamber music, the roles are continuously exchanged, and that one should seek to understand the composer’s style and sound”. As the recordings in this CD demonstrate, Gulli was one who practised what he preached; the fascination of the live performance, preserved in these recordings, makes it possible for the listener to participate in the human and musical dialogue which Gulli and Cavallo’s concerts could invariably instantiate.

Album Notes by Chiara Bertoglio


Enrica Cavallo: The Italian pianist, Enrica Cavallo-Gulli, gave, as a child prodigy, recitals everywhere in the years preceding World War II. She was educated at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan. After the war, Enrica Cavallo met the Italian violinist Franco Gulli. In 1947 they formed the world renowned Gulli-Cavallo Duo, and in 1950 they got married. In subsequent years they toured all over the world, and the duo was active until Franco Gulli’s passing in November 2001. In addition, Enrica Cavallo taught at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan. In 1993 she was appointed to the faculty of Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington. She was Professor of Music at the Jacobs School from 1974 to 1991.

Franco Gulli: Born on 1st September 1926 in Trieste, Italy, Franco Gulli was one of the most notable and active Italian violinists of the latter part of the twentieth century. He began his studies with his father, a pupil of Ševčík and Mařák at the Prague Conservatory and fellow student of Prihoda, then continued with Arrigo Serato in Siena and later with Szigeti in Switzerland. At the moment of his degree, it was one of the most distinguished young violinists of his generation, performing all over the world, from Teatro alla Scala (Milan) to Carnegie Hall (New York).
He was an esteemed member of several musical institutions such as the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, the Accademia Cherubini in Florence. He led for several years the Orchestra of the Pomeriggi Musicali (Milan) and I Virtuosi di Roma.
Gulli was even a renowned teacher: over his whole lifetime, he gave masterclasses all over the world, held classes and sat on the juries of several international competitions in London, Munich, New York, and Indianapolis, where he held a Professorship at Indiana University.
Particularly notable are the revisions of the Bach's "Sonatas & Partitas" (Suvini Zerboni), the 10 Beethoven's Violin Sonatas and the Paganini's Caprices Op.1, both for Curci Edition.
Gulli rarely recorded with other pianists. Before to marry the pianist Enrica Cavallo in 1948 and start a long-lived duo partnership, he played with Guido Ratter. In the same period, Gulli created even the Trio Italiano d'Archi with Bruno Giuranna, violinist, and Amedeo Baldovino, cellist (replaced in 1962 with Giacinto Caramia).
He usually used two violins, the Stradivari 1716, "Maréchal-Berthier, Vecsey" (already belonged to Franz von Vecsey), and the Stradivari 1702, "Conte de Fontana" (belonged to David Oistrakh). He died at Bloomington in 2001.


Albert Dietrich (b Forsthaus Golk, nr Meissen, 28 Aug 1829; d Berlin, 20 Nov 1908). German conductor and composer. He attended the Dresden Kreuzschule from 1842 to 1847, studying the piano and composition with Julius Otto. He then studied with Ignaz Moscheles, Julius Rietz and Moritz Hauptmann at the Leipzig Conservatory and attended lectures at the university. In 1851 he went to Düsseldorf, where he was taken into Schumann’s circle and became friendly with Brahms. In the autumn of 1853 he wrote the opening Allegro of the ‘F–A–E’ Violin Sonata (the other movements were composed by Brahms and Schumann) as a greeting for Joachim. Dietrich left Düsseldorf in 1854 and conducted the first performance of his Symphony in Leipzig on 9 December. He then worked in Bonn (1855–61), conducting the subscription concerts and acting as the city’s music director, and at Oldenburg (1861–90), where he was court Kapellmeister and took over the musical education of the grand duchess. In 1890 he retired to Berlin, where he had been a member of the Akademie der Künste from 1888; he received the title of royal professor in 1899.

As a conductor Dietrich championed primarily the works of Bach, Schumann and Brahms and had little sympathy for the music of the New German School. As a composer he was a follower of Schumann, and his works enjoyed a considerable reputation during his lifetime; perhaps his greatest success was as a songwriter. Both his operas were performed in his lifetime; his incidental music to Cymbeline was played in England at the Lyceum revival in 1896. He also wrote a collection of memoirs of Brahms (Erinnerungen an Johannes Brahms in Briefen, besonders aus seiner Jugendzeit, Leipzig, 1898, 2/1899/R), which was translated into English the year after it first appeared.

Béla Bartok: (b Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary [now Sînnicolau Mare, Romania], 25 March 1881; d New York, 26 Sept 1945). Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist and pianist. Although he earned his living mainly from teaching and playing the piano and was a relentless collector and analyst of folk music, Bartók is recognized today principally as a composer. His mature works were, however, highly influenced by his ethnomusicological studies, particularly those of Hungarian, Romanian and Slovak peasant musics. Throughout his life he was also receptive to a wide variety of Western musical influences, both contemporary (notably Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg) and historic; he acknowledged a change from a more Beethovenian to a more Bachian aesthetic stance in his works from 1926 onwards. He is now considered, along with Liszt, to be his country’s greatest composer, and, with Kodály and Dohnányi, a founding figure of 20th-century Hungarian musical culture.

Johannes Brahms: (b Hamburg, 7 May 1833; d Vienna, 3 April 1897). German composer. The successor to Beethoven and Schubert in the larger forms of chamber and orchestral music, to Schubert and Schumann in the miniature forms of piano pieces and songs, and to the Renaissance and Baroque polyphonists in choral music, Brahms creatively synthesized the practices of three centuries with folk and dance idioms and with the language of mid- and late 19th-century art music. His works of controlled passion, deemed reactionary and epigonal by some, progressive by others, became well accepted in his lifetime.

Richard Strauss (b Munich, 11 June 1864; d Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 8 Sept 1949). German composer and conductor. He emerged soon after the deaths of Wagner and Brahms as the most important living German composer. During an artistic career which spanned nearly eight decades, he composed in virtually all musical genres, but became best known for his tone poems (composed during the closing years of the 19th century) and his operas (from the early decades of the 20th). Coming of age as a composer at a time when the duality of bourgeois and artist had become increasingly problematic, Strauss negotiated the worlds of art and society with a remarkable combination of candour and irony. Averse to the metaphysics of Wagner and indifferent to Mahler's philosophical intentions in music, he exploited instead the paradoxes, inconsistencies and potential profundities to be found in modern, everyday life. The new possibilities he envisioned for music were exemplified in the eclecticism of the opera Der Rosenkavalier, whose juxtaposition of contemporary with intentionally anachronistic elements creates a stylistic pluralism that adumbrates subsequent experimentation of the later 20th century.

Robert Schumann: (b Zwickau, Saxony, 8 June 1810; d Endenich, nr Bonn, 29 July 1856). German composer and music critic. While best remembered for his piano music and songs, and some of his symphonic and chamber works, Schumann made significant contributions to all the musical genres of his day and cultivated a number of new ones as well. His dual interest in music and literature led him to develop a historically informed music criticism and a compositional style deeply indebted to literary models. A leading exponent of musical Romanticism, he had a powerful impact on succeeding generations of European composers.