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Bach, Bacchini, Bellini, Benjamin, Handel, Hovhaness, Krol, Palazzani: Passato | Presente

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  • Artist(s): Tiziano Rossi, Lorenzo Ricchelli
  • Composer: Alan Hovhaness, Alessandro Palazzani, Arthur Benjamin, Bernhard Krol, George Frideric Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Roberto Bacchini, Vincenzo Bellini
  • EAN Code: 7.46160665870
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Organ, Sax
  • Period: Contemporary, Romantic
  • Sound Engineer: Gabriele Zanetti
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SKU: C00230 Category:

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Description

Dialogic parallelisms

The geometric concept of parallel is tied to the fascination of purity: a constant and immutable distance between two straight lines at every point.

Putting two objects in parallel is an operation which, logically, seems to be linear, simple and realizable in such a fashion that the geometrical definition is fully respected. However, an analysis made through a fixed-distance criterion and with no contact whatsoever loses its solidity when one faces the variable aural matter. By extending this reasoning, we can get to the study of the various proportions between the musical works, in a more general and proportioned sound parallelism.

Analogy and symmetry are words which approximate the value of agreement: a constant fusion and integration grounded on the exaltation of the reciprocal correspondences. Thanks to a bending of the intellect, then, the meaning becomes oriented towards an inclination to the encounter, and, more generally, to dialogue. Of course: each piece, on the one hand, maintains the signs of the time it belongs to, and, on the other, it expresses its own distinctive features. However, music has always been the expression of the world which produces it; its continuously evolving path is rooted precisely into the fertile ground of what preceded it, keeping the advantage of time past. This is therefore a balanced polyphony, moving between antiquity and modernity; a tortuous itinerary, articulated into intertwining relationships and links among the pieces, in order to highlight their common features, and finding the simple matrixes of their structural and formal development.

The passage from past to present, from the serene melancholy of what has been to the solid certainty of what now is, is realized also through the timbral variation in the instrumental destination, here applied to a non-original repertoire, with transcriptions from the orchestra to the organ, and from various wind instruments to the saxophone. If the use of other sources of sound becomes a valid strategy for recreating and evoking an ancient thought with modern means, the exploration of the sound goes beyond the boundary of distance and gets nearer to present-day, through the careful analysis of the phonic potential realized by composers of the twentieth and twenty-first century. In these works, experimentation is paired with a concrete and clear writing, moving between classical and contemporary forms, in a parallel dialogue with innovative freedom.

Bernhard Krol

There is precious little information about the biography of the German composer Krol. He was a horn-player in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and at the Radio-Symphonieorchester Stuttgart; he had been a student of the celebrated German composer, musicologist and publisher Josef Leopold Rufer (who had been, in turn, a student of Arnold Schönberg and Alban Berg). Krol’s compositional style is clearly distant from serialism, and it finds an expressive oasis at the threshold between late Romanticism and Neoclassicism.

His Antifona (1971) is indeed at the border between a feeling of peace and one of deep inquietude. The listener finds himself or herself at the still point of a continuous oscillation between the consolation offered by the melody, and the harmony’s constant unrest; great moments with an archaic flavor are juxtaposed to neoclassical languages, reminiscent of Paul Hindemith’s style.

In full accord with the classical Greek formal ideal, the two voices of the Antifona dialogue in a series of sound proposals and answers, with broad melodic lines separated by imposing cadences aiming at sustaining the compositional structure. Since the very first moment, an aural world smelling of frankincense welcomes a psalmody with a sacred character. This composition expresses itself through a thematic and dynamic conflict, in an overall rhythmical-descriptive vision. Fixed melodic elements are continuously developed and stated by the organ in the initial Presto, later to be followed by the saxophone in the almost cadenced Andante.

Ornamentation is understood here in a strictly literal sense: the thematic material undergoes a continuing enlargement, until it reaches colossal concluding proportions. The dynamic development is bound to the overall structure: there are numerous changes of pace (eleven, to be exact), in an acrobatic oscillation between the limit sound/silence and the apotheosis of the greatest sonority, in a masterful game of contrasts between light and darkness.

Alan Hovhaness

Alan Hovhaness was a prolific Armenian-born American composer, whose output numbers upwards of five hundred works. His biography tells an unusual story: throughout his entire life as a composer, Hovhaness frequently destroyed his previously-composed scores, as a symbol for a turning point, an abandonment of the past and a new stylistic beginning. An attentive scholar who precisely sought after the language’s perfection, Hovhaness passed through numerous and diverse stages of compositional belonging. A curious and capable organist, he went beyond the horizons of a simple instrumental approach; thanks to his many journeys, he deeply analyzed many musical styles, by listening and practising them locally.

An irreplaceable element in Hovhaness’ music is the quest for simplicity, free from frills and artificial fictions. His Prayer of Saint Gregory sounds precisely in this way: it is direct and sincere, but never meagre or unreal. The linearity of the chorale entrusted to the organ intertwines with the soft and velvety traits of the soloist. The result is a meditative and serenely pacific piece, almost an aural watercolour. Originally written for trumpet and instrumental accompaniment (there exist several heterogeneous versions for string orchestra, wind ensemble, piano or organ), this work, of an intimate nature, is an elaboration of the interlude from the opera Etchmiadzin; it also represented a fertile source of thematic material which ultimately found its way in his Twenty-first Symphony.

Alessandro Palazzani

Palazzani, born in Brescia and representing the younger generation, is noted for his clear, spontaneous, harmonious and accessible style. His musical education is reminiscent of that of the “ancient masters”: the ability to employ the traditional compositional techniques is placed side by side with a continuing experimentation in the instrumental practice. After his diploma in Composition, which he obtained with full marks at the Conservatory of Brescia, this composer deepened his practical knowledge through the study of several musical instruments.

His Pastorale has an evident descriptive vocation; it also offers programmatic indications excerpted from the holy texts of the Gospel of St Luke. This literary inspiration, coming from a bucolic ambience, is therefore absorbed by the compositional process, and is found in the score in the form of captions: “Et pastores errant in regione eadem vigilantes” (“There were shepherds keeping watch in that region”). The performance indication Molto moderato e flessibile is mirrored by the presentation, by the soprano saxophone, of a musical theme with a placid and serene character, as if suggesting the peaceful and relaxed feeling of the shepherds, who are utterly ignorant of what will happen in a few minutes. Suddenly, a luminous beacon irrupts in the Biblical text and in the piece: “Et ecce angelus Domini stetit juxta illos” (“And lo, the Angel of the Lord came upon them”). The saxophone’s style becomes more rhythmical and condensed, leading the listener to a state of sparkling liveliness: the spirit of history has manifested itself. Thick arpeggios by the organ are intertwined with the heavenly calls found in the text, bringing a message (the announcement of Jesus’ birth) among the notes.

Arthur Benjamin

“My life was renewed […], I had clearly understood where happiness lay […]. Listening to such a music became the founding idea of all my reasoning”. Thus Stendhal expressed himself with reference to the music of the Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa. The last important representative of the Neapolitan musical school of the mid-eighteenth century, Cimarosa was an organist at the Royal Chapel of Naples, and he obtained great fame in Italy, Austria, Germany, France and England as a composer of vocal music. His interest for the pedagogy of composition, with particular reference to instrumental music, led Cimarosa to write a series of Sonatas for the harpsichord or fortepiano (of which only thirty-two have survived), aiming at the development of technical and musical skills. Starting from this collection, in 1942, the Australian composer Arthur Benjamin developed his Concerto for oboe and strings. This work, based on four Sonatas by Cimarosa, is full of invention, and occasionally reveals its neo-classical traits. The concerto opens with a languid melody entrusted to the soloist: it germinates from the repetition of a fixed motif, almost an embellishment, while the organ sustains the tune until the final cadenza leading to the second movement. This is a lively piece, which perfectly embodies the Italian style by applying it to a soloistic context. Several aural emotions alternate with each other, up to the Siciliana, whose melodic charm gravitates around a minor-mode tonal centre. This undulates, similar to a boat on the sea, over the organ’s arpeggios, in a melancholic and meditative parenthesis. A joyful section of repeated notes, with melodic citations alluding to the Neapolitan popular music, closes this Concerto with an Allegro giusto.

Roberto Bacchini

Roberto Bacchini is a composer, orchestra conductor, organist and professor. He graduated with the highest score at the Pontificio Istituto Ambrosiano di Musica Sacra in Milan, obtaining a Master’s in Gregorian Chant. As a composer of vocal, instrumental and choral music, he published several collections of sacred music. He founded and conducts the Orchestra Poseidon of Varese, and he regularly performs in concerts with chamber and orchestral ensembles. He is the titular organist of the Mascioni Organ op. 682 at the Collegiata di San Provino in Agno (Switzerland).

His piece, originally for Clarinet in B-flat and organ, is recorded here in a version for soprano saxophone. Vetrate di luce is described by its composer with these words: “These stained-glass windows are those of the Duomo of Milan; or, rather, the inspiring subject of this piece is the light which passes through them. This work begins with grandiose chords by the organ, as if putting their greatness into relief, and reasserting, through the music, their thrust to the top of the cathedral. The saxophone enters immediately after, on tiptoe, as if representing the first sunrays. Then comes the moment of light, an explosion of colours: a new melody, with a joyful character, finds its way among the naves while the organ responds to this dialogue with a sweet counter-melody, entrusted to a registro dolce. Everything becomes more and more intense, until the saxophone leaves to the solo organ the final words: this instrument, in its full solemnity and power, brings to life this blinding light, which fills even the darkest corners of the windows. This piece is certainly played on effects full of harmonies and colours, aiming at filling the listeners with wonder; as if music itself would enchant them and draw them into the ethereal and visual imagination of these rays”.

Album Notes by Lorenzo Ricchelli

Artist(s)

Tiziano Rossi, Born in Ossana in Trentino, he graduated brilliantly in clarinet at the conservatory in Trento, in saxophone at the conservatory in Parma, in organ and in organ composition at the conservatory in Vicenza. He studied the organ with G. Parodi and S. Innocenti and graduated with the guide of R. Antonello and orchestra leadership with D. Gatti. He performs concert activities with different groups and as soloist in Italy and abroad with excellent public and critics approval. He took part in radio and TV recordings for public and private institutions. From 1981 he collaborates as clarinettist and saxophonist with the Arena Orchestra of Verona, later with the Haydn Orchestra of Trento and Bolzano, with the RAI of Milano, with the Orchestra of the theatre Carlo Felice of Genova, with the Orchestra Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, with the Orchestra A. Toscanini of Emilia Romagna and with the national Orchestra of the RAI of Torino under the leadership of eminent maestros of international fame such as: L. Maazel, G. Prètre, I. Karabtchevsky, D. Oren, R. Muti, W. Marschall, W. Eddins, E. Morricone. Within the international festival of holy music in Sumperk in the Czech Republic he inaugurated the big organ of the Zabrech cathedral, after the restoration. With the Arena Orchestra of Verona he inaugurated the Royal Opera House of Muskat in Oman. He won the national competition organized by the Ministry of public instruction to teach in the national conservatories.

He received 17 awards in national and international soloist competitions, auditions and scholarships. He has collaborated as an adjunct orchestral professor with: Teatro "Carlo Felice" in Genoa, Fondazione Arena di Verona, LaVerdi Orchestra of Milan, Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento, Orchestra Filarmonica Italiana. In 2014 he obtained, through audition, the suitability for inclusion in the orchestra of the Teatro Sociale di Como - AsLiCo. He performed the "Concerto Op. 109" by A. Glazunov with the orchestra of "I Virtuosi Italiani". He has taught in master-class in-depth instrumental, taken part in recordings and is a founding member of the Coritage Saxophone Quartet. He obtained the Diploma in saxophone and the II level Academic Diploma in instrumental disciplines at Chamber-Orchestral Address with the highest marks, honors and honorable mention under the guidance of M. Giovannelli at the Conservatorio "G. Nicolini" of Piacenza where from 2013 to 2015 he held the position of Tutor of the saxophone class. He specialized in master classes with Eugene Rousseau, Daniel Gauthier, Levente Puskas and Lev Pupis. He studied technique of musical direction with Denis Salvini and participated in intensive internships with Dennis Louis Johnson and Manuel Mondejar Criado.

Composer

Alan Hovhaness (b Somerville, MA, 8 March 1911; d Seattle, 21 June 2000). American composer of Armenian and Scottish descent. He began composing in early childhood and took a youthful interest in meditation and mysticism. In the early 1930s he studied with Converse at the New England Conservatory and was exposed to the music of India, then little known in the West, through musicians in the Boston area. His early, ‘first-period’ works show little of this influence but reflect that of Renaissance music, and, especially in works composed before 1936, employ a harmonic language reminiscent of late Romanticism. In 1943 Hovhaness rethought his style, influenced by his meditative activities and the disappointments he had experienced that summer at the Berkshire Music Center, where his music was criticized by Bernstein and Copland. He destroyed or suppressed many works and studied Armenian music – especially the works of the priest-composer Komitas Vardapet – which he had until then neglected. The music of this second period is more active rhythmically and contrapuntally, but it is significant that the stylistic attitude and the harmonic and melodic vocabulary remain more or less the same. Hovhaness attained a considerable reputation in the 1950s, a decade during which he travelled widely and embarked on a third stylistic period. This combined elements of the first two periods as well as various experimental and non-Western procedures. These international tendencies continued into a fourth period, beginning about 1960, in which East Asian elements, particularly Japanese and Korean, predominate. The fifth period, beginning about 1971, was marked by a return to Western influences; the works are particularly rich in scoring and chordal sonority, longer in duration than their predecessors, and generally more spacious and less active. Although most of Hovhaness’s major compositions are instrumental, almost every work is religious in nature. This does not, however, inhibit stylistic and psychological variety; tranquility, fear, ecstasy, mystery and epic chaos find expression by means of divergent and ever-changing techniques. Hovhaness’s melodies are clear, often largely conjunct, and generally confined to the notes of a particular mode. The modes range from diatonic scales to exotic rāgas; the use of the rāga increased in the later periods. Wind Drum (1962), for voices and small orchestra, uses one six-note mode for the entire 35-minute work. His harmonies are often quite consonant, but progress modally or chromatically rather than tonally. In the works of his second and fourth periods long sections may be completely static chordally. Hovhaness also uses strong dissonances formed by adding semitone-removed pitches to a consonant chord. This collapses the functions of nonharmonic tones and of resolutions into one chord. A surprising harmonic fingerprint, found in the very early and very late works, but entirely absent from 1940 to 1970, is the traditional half-diminished chord (a diminished triad with an added minor 7th) elevated in some fifth-period works to a predominant role. In this Hovhaness acknowledged the influences of Wagner’s operas and the idiom of music for the shō, a Japanese mouth organ. Hovhaness rarely used standard formal and motivic procedures, but he made frequent and rigorous use of counterpoint throughout his life. For example, the first period has many richly beautiful modal fugues (as in the Missa brevis), the second abounds in vigorous polymodal canons (‘St Vartan’ Symphony), and the fourth features slow dissonant canons at the unison (The Holy City). Rhythmic organization is equally strict, often including complex repeated metric patterns related to both Indian tāla and Western isorhythm. A variant of this procedure, which Hovhaness devised in 1944, assigns different short patterns, with pitches and rhythm specified, to several parts, with instructions that players perform the passages repeatedly at their own speed without coordination with the rest of the ensemble. The resultant blur is hardly aleatory, since exact pitches are carefully controlled and any two performances will be substantially the same. Hovhaness uses these sections, which he calls ‘rhythmless’, in many ways, ranging from gentle murmuring accompaniments (in such works of the second period as Lousadzak, 1944) to cataclysmic orchestral crescendos (as in Fra Angelico, 1967, of the fourth). Despite his high mystical intentions, Hovhaness wrote quickly and produced many works of Gebrauchsmusik (Symphony for Metal Orchestra, for flutes, trombones, and percussion, 1963, was written for a metallurgical society’s convention). He sometimes reworked material for new works, a practice consistent with that of his favourite Western composers, those of the Baroque, especially Handel and Bach, and Renaissance. He was also concerned to make his works easily playable. Just as Hovhaness tended to avoid Classical and Romantic forms, he normally rejected traditional Western orchestration. Many works, particularly of the second period, use small orchestras, and keep instruments and instrumental groups clearly distinct. In later works requiring larger forces he tended to cultivate polyrhythmic or polymodal techniques so that tuttis, when they do occur, are accumulations of differentiated colours rather than homogeneous aggregates. There are exceptions in the third period, particularly in the symphonies of the 1950s, where Romantic tuttis can be found. Among the most prolific composers of the 20th century, his surviving corpus of works numbers well over 400, despite his destruction of dozens of works. Age did not impede his productivity; in fact the years after his 60th birthday were the most productive of all, yielding over 30 symphonies. In 1977 he became a member of the Institute of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Hovhaness composed extensively for full orchestra, chamber orchestra and band. A capable pianist, he wrote many piano works and songs with piano accompaniment. His chamber works often use instruments of diverse types, occasionally including oriental instruments. The short chamber operas are suggestive of mystery plays and nō drama. Of his many choral works, the psalm settings have gained a permanent place in the repertory of many church choirs.

Arthur Benjamin (b Sydney, 18 Sept 1893; d London, 10 April 1960). Australian-English composer and pianist. After general education at Brisbane Grammar School he entered the RCM at 18, studying composition there with Stanford; a common admiration for Brahms eased his path with that teacher. Benjamin remained at the RCM until the outbreak of war in 1914, when he joined the infantry, later transferring to the air force. After the war he was for a short time a piano teacher at the Sydney Conservatorium, but his need for European musical life brought him back to London in 1921. His first published work, a string quartet, appeared in 1924 and won a Carnegie Award, and in 1926 Benjamin joined the staff of the RCM. An early enthusiasm for the music of Gershwin stimulated his Piano Concertino (1926), which he declared to have been influenced by the Rhapsody in Blue, although it is difficult to find this influence in the innocent sounds of Benjamin's Concertino, which bears a greater resemblance to salon music or to the music of the French music halls before the introduction of jazz. The composer himself played the solo part at the first performance in England, conducted by Wood. Benjamin was a very good pianist, although not perhaps a virtuoso, and his playing affected both his style of composition and his musical career. He also gave the first performances of Howells's Piano Concerto no.1 (1913) and Lambert's Piano Concerto (1931). More long-lasting and fruitful than the influence of Gershwin was that of Latin American music, which Benjamin heard during his travels as an adjudicator and examiner for the Associated Board. He wrote works in Latin-American dance rhythms throughout his life, and indeed one of his best known pieces is the Jamaican Rumba (1938), originally for two pianos and later orchestrated. It made his name known throughout the world, and many would have been astonished to learn that he was a ‘serious’ composer and a professor at the RCM. The ‘light’ element remained an important feature in his music until his last years. With the exception of several works his music is jovial in mood and uncomplicated in technique; a touch of neo-classicism in the Violin Concerto (1932) merely reflects the compatibility of the manner with Benjamin's essential cheerfulness. His first opera, The Devil Take Her, displays his light touch and sense of humour. The longest and most serious of his completed operas is The Tale of Two Cities. This was revived (1995) in excerpts for a BBC radio broadcast. None of his dramatic pieces has held the stage. Benjamin's orchestral music has fared better: the two concertante piano works have a certain life, and the second (1949) ends with a rugged and dramatic Passacaglia, an indication of the more profound direction that his music was taking in his last years. The Romantic Fantasy for violin, viola and orchestra is an ardent and wholly successful work, indebted to both Delius and Bax. His only symphony (1944–5) was performed at the 1948 Cheltenham Festival. It is dark and powerful, tragic in expression, and its mood seems in keeping with the time at which it was written. Much the same mood is shared by the Viola Sonata and the Ballade for strings. There were two further operas: Mañana, the first opera commissioned for BBC television, and Tartuffe, of which Benjamin completed the short score but orchestrated only a few pages. His piano pupils included Britten. As a teacher, pianist and composer Benjamin was an accomplished professional, as was recognized by the Worshipful Company of Musicians which awarded him the Cobbett Medal in 1956. Film music was eminently fitted to his talents, and he contributed some successful examples, including scores for An Ideal Husband and for a documentary about the ascent of Everest.

George Frideric Handel (b Halle, 23 Feb 1685; d London, 14 April 1759). English composer of German birth. Though consistently acknowledged as one of the greatest composers of his age, his reputation from his death to the early 20th century rested largely on the knowledge of a small number of orchestral works and oratorios, Messiah in particular. In fact, he contributed to every musical genre current in his time, both vocal and instrumental. The composition of operas, mainly on Italian librettos, dominated the earlier part of his career, and are the finest (though not the most typical) of their kind. In his later years his commitment to large-scale vocal works, usually with a strong dramatic element, found a more individual outlet in English oratorio, a genre that he invented and established.

Johann Sebastian Bach: (b Eisenach, 21 March 1685, d Leipzig; 28 July 1750). Composer and organist. The most important member of the family, his genius combined outstanding performing musicianship with supreme creative powers in which forceful and original inventiveness, technical mastery and intellectual control are perfectly balanced. While it was in the former capacity, as a keyboard virtuoso, that in his lifetime he acquired an almost legendary fame, it is the latter virtues and accomplishments, as a composer, that by the end of the 18th century earned him a unique historical position. His musical language was distinctive and extraordinarily varied, drawing together and surmounting the techniques, the styles and the general achievements of his own and earlier generations and leading on to new perspectives which later ages have received and understood in a great variety of ways. The first authentic posthumous account of his life, with a summary catalogue of his works, was put together by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel and his pupil J.F. Agricola soon after his death and certainly before March 1751 (published as Nekrolog, 1754). J.N. Forkel planned a detailed Bach biography in the early 1770s and carefully collected first-hand information on Bach, chiefly from his two eldest sons; the book appeared in 1802, by when the Bach Revival had begun and various projected collected editions of Bach’s works were underway; it continues to serve, together with the 1754 obituary and the other 18th-century documents, as the foundation of Bach biography.

Vincenzo Bellini (b Catania, 3 Nov 1801; d Puteaux, nr Paris, 23 Sept 1835). Italian composer. He was a leading figure in early 19th-century opera, noted for his expressive melodies and sensitive approach to text-setting.

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