The trombone descends from some of the most ancient musical instruments, and has a rich history encompassing function, symbol and art. Functionally, it is an instrument with a very powerful and yet rich and mellow sound; it has nothing of the trumpet’s occasional shrillness but possesses the same capability to pierce space. Thus, it has frequently been employed for aural “signals”, and wherever the need was to carry the sound through a particular area. Symbolically, it became a symbol for the “numinous”, for the mysterious and divine, particularly in the northern European countries, and particularly after Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible, where the Latin “tuba” was rendered as “Posaune”. Artistically, the trombone has been employed as a solo instrument by not many of the most famous composers; yet, all of them demonstrated their fascination with this instrument by employing it in a powerful, meaningful and significant fashion on some of the most impressive occasions in their musical output. In chamber music, it is most frequently found in combination with other wind instruments, especially with brass; when paired with the piano, the trombone acquires a role as a soloist and a protagonist, and displays its full potential as regards virtuosity, expressivity and colour. Particularly in recent times, when the study of the timbral possibilities of the instrument has been explored by performers and composers alike, the trombone has revealed itself as possessing a fascinating variety of sounds, and an almost inexhaustible expressive potential. The piano is a particularly suited partner for the trombone, being its perfect complement: unable to match the sustained tones and seamless emission of a wind instrument, the piano provides the harmonic structure and the brilliancy of sound and articulation which the trombone lacks.
This Album offers a thorough view and a multifaceted perspective on the twentieth- and twenty-first-century repertoire for trombone and piano, almost as if encapsulating in a CD some examples from most of the main styles and techniques of modern and contemporary music. The first piece on the tracklist, Hommage à Bach by Eugène Bozza, opens the album perfectly: while employing a thoroughly modern language and a very personal style, it looks back to Bach and to his music, drawing idiomatic motifs and compositional elements from the great Baroque composer’s style. This work is full of variety, and comprises brilliant and dance-like moments along with very effusive and emotional passages; Bach is not seen by Bozza as the serious and severe master of form, but rather as the inspirer of a polyphonic dialogue, whose technique is handled with secure gestures by Bozza, and whose relational dimension is never missing. Bozza was particularly attracted by the sound of wind instruments, which inspired many of his most successful works; curiously, however, he was not a virtuoso player of wind instruments, favouring the violin instead. Similarly, Alexandre Guilmant was an organist, who moonlighted as the editor of forgotten Baroque works. His Morceau Symphonique represented almost a challenge: Guilmant had been asked, probably by Dubois, the Director of the Conservatoire de Paris, to provide the compulsory work for the final exam of the trombone students. The piece was particularly appreciated by the performers, and it quickly rose among the favourites of the French repertoire for the trombone.
More than a century divides it from Madcap Musings at Honeysuckle Square, a piece only recently written by composer Joe Schittino. Tailored on the personality of Vincenzo Paratore, it is a piece whose inspiring features are those of the divertissement, light, sparkling, fanciful and cheerful, but also with a visionary vein: it has been defined as “glancing at the [groupe des] Six and to P. G. Wodehouse”, the undisputed master of British humour. Its first section features complex rhythms and a high-spirited character, ironically reminiscent of military parades with a touch of slapstick comedy; this is followed by a touching section, where, at first, the trombone gives its best as an expressive instrument, and later attempts to compete with the piano in brilliancy and agility. The dramatic element increases in the following cadenza, where the tone becomes extremely serious: the composer purposefully plays with the audience’s perception, leading listeners to wonder about what is seriously meant, what is parody, what is a parody of the parody.
Another young composer is the author of Daybreak, the first of the four pieces constituting the Tetralogy of the Sun. A trombone player himself, Nicola Ferro has conquered the attention of the most important performers worldwide, and this Tetralogy has even become the subject of an American thesis. Its author, Bradley James Keesler, found Daybreak “simple”, by comparison with other works by Ferro; however, Joseph Alessi, one of the most famous American trombonists, expressed his appreciation for its “beautiful, singing tune”. This singing style is related by Keesler to the world of Italian opera, specifically mentioned by Ferro himself as one of his main sources of inspiration (from Puccini’s Tosca to the unforgettable tone of Pavarotti’s voice). The style is deeply emotional and profoundly touching; in Keesler’s words, Ferro “combines these musical foundations with his personal passion of life”, which is due, in turn, to his own “free-spirited” and “emotional” personality (in Alessi’s view). The piece, as the others in the Tetralogy, is profoundly inspired by the idea of the Sun, the source of life: “The Sun is the most important aspect to life on Earth, and […] the sun is beautiful and ever-present”, as Ferro himself said. Each of the Tetralogy’s four movements embodies a moment in time and how the sun appears at that time: the result is “perfect”, for Alessi, since Ferro “wrote the exact kind of music that vividly captures beautiful, picturesque images”. If Puccini provided Ferro with inspiration, Carmenaria by Jean-Michel Defaye is even more evidently linked to the world of opera. It is a catchy pastiche, a combination of tunes excerpted from among the most famous melodies of Bizet’s acclaimed Carmen. The trombone is given ample opportunity to display its singing style, and it demonstrates its capability to evoke both lightness and power, expressivity and humour. The following piece brings us back to Eugène Bozza, with a work predating by more than a decade his Hommage à Bach; similar to Guilmant’s Morceau Symphonique, the Ballade was commissioned by the Conservatory of Paris, which actively sought to renew and refresh the solo repertoire for the less common instruments. Here too the solo trombone has the opportunity of displaying the full palette of technique and musicianship: a series of seemingly unrelated sections, which masterfully intertwine with each other, provide variety and stimuli to the performer’s skill. Its origins as a test-piece are demonstrated by the frequent references to the orchestral literature, whose most famous excerpts are cited throughout the work. A great variety of inspirations is found also in Prelude and Dance by John Glenesk Mortimer, a Scottish composer who weaves a high number of musical idioms in the fabric of his piece. Here too moments of effusive lyricism are blended with humorous passages, and with hints to the most beloved dance styles. Mortimer’s piece was written when the composer of the last piece on this CD, Carolina Calvache, was just two years old: her Trombonsillo (2017) is a piece whose origins spring from two places, i.e. Colombia and New York. In fact, the germinating principles of the work and the first musical ideas behind it were conceived by the composer when she still lived in her home-country, Colombia, while the entire work was completed only twelve years later. Trombonsillo is notable for its spiky tunes, which are characteristic for the popular songs on a pasillo rhythm. This idiomatic feature of Colombian music is interpreted by the composer as a symbol for her country. This compilation, therefore, invites the listener to an itinerary encompassing different styles and perspectives, all revolving around the timbre, sound and qualities of this extraordinary instrument, the trombone.
Liner Notes by Chiara Bertoglio
Manuela Cigno: After graduating in 1991 at the "Luigi Cherubini" Conservatory of Florence with piano Professor Muriel Chemin, Manuela Cigno continued her studies at the "Scuola di Musica di Fiesole" with the great pianist Maria Tipo. In 2007 she has attained a further Master degree in Pianoforte at the Conservatory "V. Bellini" of Catania. In the early years of her career, Manuela Cigno attended also lessons with the prestigious pianists Lazar Berman, Franco Medori, and Piero Rattalino. Manuela Cigno gained the first prize in many national and international competitions, including "Muzio Clementi" (Florence), "Pietro Napoli" (Livorno), "Città di Valentino" (Taranto), "Città del Barocco" (Lecce), "Premio Rosetum " (Milan), " Davide Fiore " (Melito - Naples), " Città dei Sassi" (Matera) etc.
She played both as a soloist and in various chamber ensembles for important Musical Associations, including Associazione Musicale Etnea, Teatro Metropolitan in Catania, Teatro Rosetum in Milan, Associazione “Dino Ciani” in Milan, “Circolo Amici dell’Opera” in Pistoia, AGIMUS in Ragusa, Catania Opera Universitaria, Accademia Rachmaninoff, Palazzo Mastai in Senigallia, Palazzo dei Duchi di Santo Stefano in Taormina, Novalis Haus in Bad Aibling etc.
Manuela Cigno carries out a wide concert activity with various chamber ensembles and played with soloists such as Mario Caroli, Juana Guillem, Paolo Beltramini, Paolo Grazia, Hervé Joulain, Guglielmo Pellarin, and singers as Salvatore Fisichella, Francesca Scaini and Daniela Schillaci.
International Soloist, he is currently considered one of the most talented Trombonists of the new generation on the world stage. Graduated from the "V. Bellini" Institute of Catania under the guidance of M° C. Pavone continued his studies at the National Conservatory of Paris obtaining the Premier Prix unanimously as well as the Orchestra dell’ Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome under the guide of M° J. Mauger. The musical maturity and the technical-instrumental mastery make Vincenzo Paratore a High Professional Level Trombonist and a Multipurpose Musician, so he is winner of Auditions for Trombone and Principal Trombone at the Teatro Massimo “V. Bellini "of Catania, the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana and National and International Competitions. He was the first Italian Trombonist to win: the 2nd International Music Competition "Città di Chieri" (2002),the 18th International "Città di Porcia" Competition (2007) and the "5th International Trombone Competition of Jeju " (Korea 2008). He carries out an intense concert activity in Italy and abroad, performing as a soloist and with various formations. It is part of the "Sicilian Brass Quintet",with which he recorded two discs, and of the "Sciara Trombone Quartet",winner of several competitions.He recorded, as a soloist, F. David's Konzertino in the disc "Un Ponte per il Brasile "and Trois Tableaux by J.F. Michel on the album " Live in Valencia " with the renowned Hungarian Corpus Trombone Quartet. Key figure of the Italian Trombone he collaborated with the Teatro Regio of Turin, with the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana , Teatro alla Scala, Filarmonica della Scala and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Since 2003 he has covered the role of Principal Trombone in the Orchestra of the Teatro Massimo "V. Bellini ”of Catania with which he toured China, Japan, Russia, Spain. He is regularly invited, as teacher and soloist, to the most prestigious International Brass Festivals.Alongside his intense concert activity, he is also Trombone teacher at the V. Bellini Music Institute of Caltanissetta and holds numerous Courses and Masterclasses in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, Mexico, Hungary, Korea, Spain, Colombia, Malta, China.
Alexandre Guilmant (b Boulogne-sur-Mer, 12 March 1837; d Meudon, 29 March 1911). French organist, teacher, composer and editor. He was the son of Jean-Baptiste Guilmant, organist of St Nicolas, Boulogne, who was his first teacher; he also received harmony lessons from Gustav Carulli. Devoted to the organ from an early age, he set himself an unremitting regime of practice, composition and studying treatises. At 16 he had become organist of St Joseph, and two years later his first Messe solemnelle in F was performed at St Nicolas. Soon his musical activities broadened to include teaching solfège at the Ecole Communale de Musique, playing the viola in the Société Philharmonique, and establishing an Orphéon that won a number of prizes. In 1860 he went to Brussels to study with the organist J.N. Lemmens, purportedly the inheritor of the authentic tradition of J.S. Bach. Numerous opportunities to inaugurate new organs followed, above all those of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in Paris at St Sulpice in 1862, and at Notre Dame in 1868. His meteoric rise gained him the prestigious post at La Trinité in 1871.
Thereafter, Paris became the hub of his activities; in 1878 his additional appointment as resident organist of the Palais du Trocadéro – also equipped with a magnificent Cavaillé-Coll organ – encouraged him to pursue a parallel career as a concert recitalist, enabling him to popularize and broaden the organ repertory. His work editing and publishing the then forgotten works of such early composers as Titelouze, Grigny, Clérambault and Couperin, together with an insatiable curiosity regarding the music of his contemporaries, including Liszt, Schumann, Rheinberger, Franck, Saint-Saëns, Widor and S.S. Wesley, produced a performing repertory of unparalleled breadth. His programmes also included Handel’s organ concertos with orchestra, and Berlioz and Wagner transcriptions. Guilmant’s phenomenal energy impelled him to undertake regular extensive recital tours throughout mainland Europe, Britain and America, making a particular impact in the English-speaking world with his catholic breadth of taste, and versatility in managing a large range of instruments.
Guilmant’s excellently formed playing technique was characterized by complete precision and rhythmic clarity; he was also an imaginative but disciplined colourist with registration. He succeeded Widor as organ professor at the Paris Conservatoire (1896–1911), where his pupils included Marcel Dupré, Nadia Boulanger, Clarence Eddy and William C. Carl. In 1894 he joined Vincent d’Indy and Charles Bordes in founding the Schola Cantorum, an educational establishment intended to continue the tradition of Franck. As part of its early music programme, he played the organ in d’Indy’s historic 1904 revival of Monteverdi’s Orfeo.
Guilmant’s own large output for the organ includes eight attractive sonatas which, if much less original and exploratory than Widor’s organ symphonies, have at least the merit of greater accessibility. Yet striking passages can be found, notably the impressionistic stream of dominant 7th chords in the Seventh Sonata’s Lento assai, reflecting his broad-minded approval of Debussy’s then controversial Pelléas et Mélisande. He also wrote ‘La musique d’orgue: les formes, l’exécution, l’improvisation’ (printed in EMDC, II/ii (1926), 1125–80).
Eugène Bozza (b Nice, 4 April 1905; d Valenciennes, 28 Sept 1991). French composer and conductor. He studied with Büsser, Rabaud, Capet and Nadaud at the Paris Conservatoire where he won premiers prix for the violin (1924), conducting (1930) and composition (1934), and also the Prix de Rome with La légende de Roukmāni (1934). From 1938 to 1948 he conducted at the Opéra-Comique in Paris and in 1951 he was appointed director of the Ecole Nationale de Musique, Valenciennes, an appointment he held until his retirement in 1975. He was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1956. Though his large-scale works have been successfully performed in France, his international reputation rests on his substantial output of chamber music for wind. This displays at a high level the qualities characteristic of mid-20th-century French chamber music: melodic fluency, elegance of structure and a consistently sensitive concern for instrumental capabilities.
Joe Schittino’s music has been reviewed in leading magazines (“Neue Musikzeitung”, “L’Opera”, “BBC Music Magazine”, “The Strad”); broadcasted by ZDF, Deutschlandradio Kultur, Hessischer Rundfunk, RAI Radio3; recorded by Tactus, Champs Hill Records, Da Vinci, RCR; published by Suvini Zerboni, Edition Gamma, Ebert Musikverlag; and performed in 14 European countries, Russia, Taiwan, Iran, Cuba and USA. Among his collaborators and performers: Novosibirsk Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Italian Philharmonic Orchestra, Italian Army Band, Ensemble Algoritmo, Ensemble Calamus, Duo Narthex, Brandt Quintett; Alim Shakhmamet’ev, Fabio Maestri, Marco Angius, Mario Ciaccio, Steve Martland, Carolina Eyck, Denys Proshayev, Stanislav Chigadaev. Joe’s music was played inter alia in Auditorium Parco della Musica (Rome), Fondazione Pietà de’ Turchini, URTIcanti Festival, Cremona Mondomusica, Bibiena Art Festival, Teatro Massimo “Bellini” (Catania); London Kingston University, Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris), Centre National de Danse Contemporaine (Angers), Salle de l’Institut d’Orléans, Fondation Royaumont, Bornholms Musik-Festival, BASS 2016 Praha, ArtOrt Festival Heidelberg, Landestheater Altenburg, Museum der verfolgte Künste (Solingen), Stedelijk Conservatorium (Bruges), Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles, Festival Het Swik (Hoogezand), Italienisches Kulturinstitut Wien, University of Michigan, O’Donnell Hall and Caruth Hall (Dallas).
Joe was born in Syracuse on February 7, 1977. He gained national notoriety as an enfant prodige, a recurring guest of Italian television broadcasts (“Maurizio Costanzo Show”, 1989-95; “Piacere Rai Uno”, 1991; “90 Special”, 2018); he graduated in classical literature at the University of Catania; he studied with Luca Ballerini (piano) and Giovanni Ferrauto (composition) at the “V. Bellini” Conservatory of Catania, and he specialized with Azio Corghi and Ivan Fedele at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome (2009). In 2010 Joe was the first Italian who received a commission of the Maison d’Éducation de la Légion d’Honneur (Petite Cantate Italienne: Parigi, Concert Présidentiel 2011 with the personal patronage of N. Sarkozy). Other commissions by: Stelzenfestspiele bei Reuth (La Neuberin, two-acts opera, libretto by Klaus Rohleder), Musikverein Osnabrück, Else-Lasker-Schüler Gesellschaft, Delta Saxophone Quartet, Politistikò Festival of Cyprus University, Fondazione Luciano Benetton, Settimana Organistica Internazionale (Piacenza), Istituto Nazionale del Dramma Antico (incidental music for Le Supplici by Aeschylus, XLV Cycle of Classical Plays at the Greek Theater of Syracuse).
Joe Schittino since 2017 is director of the “P. Vinci” Municipal Conservatory in Caltagirone,and teaches Theory and Analysis in Conservatories (“A. Buzzolla” of Adria, 2014; “F. Venezze” of Rovigo, since 2017).