The curious musicophile is always in quest of new repertoires, hidden gems and unjustly forgotten figures. This Da Vinci Classics album represents such a discovery, whose value is increased by the unusual instrumental combination it features, i.e. a piano trio with clarinet and cello.
The composer of these works is Gaetano Corticelli, a now neglected composer who was highly appreciated during his lifetime. He was born on June 22nd, 1804, to Lucia Mazzoni and her husband Clemente Corticelli, who was a famous belcanto singer and teacher at Rossini’s time. Gaetano’s younger brother, Enrico (1826-1890) would also become a pianist and an esteemed teacher at the Accademia Filarmonica.
With such a musical family it was therefore natural, for Gaetano, to undertake musical studies in his native city of Bologna. There, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the influence of Padre Martini was still abundantly felt. This famous erudite scholar, musician and composer had taught Mozart and Johann Christian Bach; he had also accumulated an impressive collection of books and manuscripts, which he bequeathed, upon his death, to another Franciscan friar who had been his disciple, i.e. Stanislao Mattei (1750-1825). This collection formed the basis of the Library of the Liceo Musicale, thus linking the practice and teaching of music with the research and study of its sources.
Stanislao Mattei was the first teacher of counterpoint and composition at the Liceo, teaching hundreds of students, among whom Rossini, Donizetti and Morlacchi. It was normal, therefore, for a promising young musician such as Corticelli to become his student. Gaetano’s piano teacher was Benedetto Donelli (1782-1839), who had been a pupil of Mattei in turn, and who taught another great pianist of the era, Stefano Golinelli (1818-1891), who would later inherit Gaetano’s teaching duties at his death.
Corticelli was an extremely brilliant student. He obtained piano prizes in 1814 (at the age of ten) and in 1817, and was awarded a distinction in counterpoint in 1820 and 1821. He debuted as a composer at thirteen, when a Piano Concerto written by him was premiered by another fellow student of the Liceo, a girl by the name of Gaetana Calvi (1818). In the same year he wrote a Tantum ergo for male voices and orchestra, and a Symphony, whereas in 1819 he composed a four-parts gradual (Veni Sponsa Christi), which was performed on the solemn occasion of St. Cecilia’s day, i.e. one of the highpoints of the academic and religious year.
When still a teenager, Corticelli applied for membership in the most prestigious musical institution of Bologna (and probably of Italy), i.e. the Accademia Filarmonica. A report dating 1822 details the development of his admission process: “[The candidate] underwent the test prescribed by our Statutes, by composing an Antiphon and Fugue in five parts. These were carefully examined by the Class of the Masters, who unanimously approved and recommended them. They contextually declared the same [Corticelli] to be admitted in the above-mentioned Class, and ordered that his name be inscribed among the others. Later, he demanded to be admitted among the Academicians, and the votes were entirely in his favour”.
If the admission to the Academy was the official mark of recognition for his compositional skills, Corticelli was equally prized as a pianist; however, he did not undertake a career as a touring virtuoso, but seemed to favour the activity as a chamber music pianist. As is well known, however, musical Italy in the nineteenth century was dominated by opera; instrumental music, and particularly chamber music, were not in vogue and could hardly earn fame and celebrity. In spite of this, some notable performances by Corticelli are documented.
In 1831 he participated in an “accademia”, i.e. a miscellaneous concert, organized by the Viennese composer and pianist Maximilian Joseph Leidesdorf (1787-1840), with whom Corticelli performed works for two pianos. The concert took place in Florence, where Corticelli lived for a while. Two years later, the famous publisher Ricordi began issuing some of Corticelli’s works, thus testifying to the high esteem in which the musician was held. The first of Corticelli’s pieces to be printed by Ricordi was an Introduzione e Rondò per pianoforte con violin e cello ad lib. Another epoch-making concert took place in Bologna, where Corticelli eventually returned, on March 11th, 1835. Here, he played with two of the greatest virtuosi of the era: the French violinist Charles de Bériot and the star singer Maria Malibran. The soprano’s performance was astonishing: along with her partners, she sang “Tartini’s Dream”, i.e. an interpretation of Tartini’s Trillo del diavolo transcribed for voice, violin and piano.
Still another famous performance was the one which took place at the Teatro Comunale of Bologna, where Corticelli performed with cellist Carlo Parisini (1808-1884) and clarinetist Domenico Liverani (1805-1877). Parisini was the son of an orchestra and solo musician, Ignazio, and had studied at the Liceo Musicale for many years, taking courses in cello, violin, viola and singing. He pursued a career as a singer (for example at the Teatro Contavalli in 1816-8) and as a cellist in operatic theatres and at the Chapel of St. Petronio, the Cathedral Church of Bologna. From 1831 to 1871, Parisini taught cello at the Liceo Musicale; in 1839, a reviewer wrote about him: “He is excellent and exceeds every expectation. Those who have not heard Bellini’s melodies performed on the cello by this famous youth cannot know how moving can be the music of that dear deceased one”. This bears witness to the practice of performing operatic music in instrumental transcriptions, and to Parisini’s talent for transforming his cello into a singing voice.
Liverani, instead, had begun his musical education in a village band founded by a priest, don Gaspare Scardovi; later, his talent was observed by a generous and wealthy clarinet player who gave him free lessons at first, and later encouraged him to study at the Liceo Musicale. He entered the institution in 1822, when Corticelli had already left it; however, he studied with Corticelli’s teachers Donelli and Mattei. In 1838, he was invited to teach at the Liceo Musicale and, similar to Corticelli, he befriended Maria Malibran, along with Rossini, Pasta, Rubini etc. Intriguingly, he is remembered for a Terzettino for cello, clarinet and piano on themes from Verdi’s Trovatore.
Corticelli began teaching at the Liceo musicale one year after Liverani, in 1839; sadly, however, his appointment lasted no longer than one year, since he prematurely passed away on March 18th, 1840. One month later, on April 20th, 1840, a former pupil of Corticelli, Isabella Pio di Savoia, organized an “accademia” to honour his memory; the concert saw the participation of the best instrumentalists and singers who were active in Bologna at that time, and the benefits went to the musician’s family.
Corticelli’s compositional output is varied; it includes vocal music (for example the cantata Il piccolo Reno, whose autograph score was showed during the Esposizione Internazionale di Musica held in Bologna in 1888), works for piano four hands (such as two Polonaises) and for two pianos (Gran Sonata Brillante op. 12), chamber music (songs with piano accompaniment, works for piano and winds such as three Terzetti for piano, oboe and bassoon and a Quartet for piano and winds) etc.
The three Trios recorded here are intriguingly called “Genere”, representing as many “types”, i.e. the Romantic, the Fantastic and the Religious type. These works were posthumously (1842) published by the famous printer Lucca of Milan. Musically, these works are indebted to the contemporaneous practice of writing instrumental works on operatic themes or styles: belcanto influences are found both in the singing quality and in the virtuoso or stormy passages, and the scoring clearly suits the cantabile quality of Corticelli’s partners. The lyrical quality of Corticelli’s music has been compared with that of Bellini, whose life was similarly short and whose unforgettable tunes were so beautifully performed by Parisini on the cello. In spite of the evident connection between the three Generi, there is an observable evolution in style between the Romantico and the Fantastico: while the former maintains a formal structure similar of that of a Classical Trio (with clearly recognizable, though seamlessly connected, movements), the Fantastico is more capriciously built with frequent and contrasting sections.
The other piece recorded here is excerpted from a set of two trios paying homage to Bellini’s melodies. The original score was for flute, cello and piano: here, as in the three Generi, the piano leads the ensemble and its part includes virtuoso sections, although all instruments display a concertante style which links the brilliancy of the operatic stage with the more intimate character of chamber music.
Together, these works represent a welcome opportunity to rediscover the talent and skill of Corticelli, and to perceive the fascination of a distant musical worlds whose charm does not cease to touch, move and enchant the listeners.
Album notes by Chiara Bertoglio
Vanessa Grasso (Clarinet): She begins studying the clarinet under the push of her grandfather musician. In 2006 she was admitted to the "Vincenzo Bellini" Higher Institute of Musical Studies in Catania in the class of M. Carmelo Dell’Acqua. She graduated in 2011 with full marks and continued his academic study, obtaining, at the same Institute, in 2014 the degree at the end of the two-year period for the training of teachers with full marks and honors and in 2015 the qualification to teaching with full marks. At the same time she attended one-year specialization courses with maestro Calogero Palermo and various master classes with masters Patrick Messina, Manuel Jodar, Vincenzo Paci, Giovanni Punzi. She has participated in several theatrical works performing music in world premiere. She has always been involved in a conspicuous concert activity in various chamber ensembles including the Calamus Clarinet Ensemble with which she performed in Milan during EXPO 2015, in Belgium on the occasion of the clarinet festival. She recorded a disc with the singer Rita Botto and with the Sicilian Clarinet Orchestra. With the Clementi Trio consisting of clarinet, cello and piano, she dedicates herself to the classical and contemporary repertoire, also enhancing the composers of the Sicilian territory. Since 2017 she has been a clarinet teacher at the musical high school “A. Musco ”of Catania.
Chiara D'Aparo (Cello): She began studying the cello at a very young age in her hometown. In 2007 she was admitted to the cello school at the "V. Bellini ”in Catania where in 2012 she graduated, under the guidance of M. Salemi, with full marks. She carries out an intense chamber music activity that sees her part of various chamber ensembles, including the Clementi Trio, which has performed at S.C.A.M in Catania, A.F.A.M in Floridia and the Accademia Filarmonica di Messina, Concert Association of the city of Noto. Participates in numerous national and international competitions, always ranking in the first places. She also studied at the I Musici Di Parma Academy with G. Gnocchi and participated in masterclasses with R. Filippini, U. Clerici, U. Hoffman, G. Georgescu. She also frequently performs in orchestral formations, and in 2017 she also collaborated with the Santa Cecilia National Orchestra. In 2014 she graduated at the end of the two-year course for teacher training with full marks and honors and in 2015 she obtained the teaching qualification. As orchestral musician she played with internationally renowned artists such as D. Rivera, D. Rea, A. Ducros, E. Bosso, S. Bollani, S. Pagliani, C. Hartmann and M. Argherich. Currently she is improving with M ° Luigi Piovano, first solo cello of the national orchestra of Santa Cecilia. She is suitable for cello auditions in a row at the Regional Orchestra of Calabria, at the Vittorio Emanuele Theater in Messina and at the Massimo Vincenzo Bellini Theater in Catania.
Giulia Russo (Piano): She began studying piano in 2005 and in 2007 was admitted to the “V. Bellini” Higher Institute of Musical studies in Catania. Student of Prof. Maria Santina Schillaci, in 2016 she graduated in Piano with full marks and honors. In 2018 she obtained the second level Specialized Degree in Music Disciplines with full marks, honors and with the possibility of recording and printing the thesis. She has participated in numerous national and international piano competitions, reporting in all first prizes and absolute prizes. She performed in concert at the Mozarteum in Salzburg in the summer of 2014 and 2015. In September 2016 she performed as a soloist, together with the youth orchestra of the Bellini Institute, Beethoven's third concert for piano and orchestra. Since 2018 she has been part of the Clementi Trio, a chamber ensemble with a particular tonal refinement. She devoted herself to the activity of collaborating pianist for choirs and opera theater performances, a role she also held at the Massimo V. Bellini Theater in Catania. She has followed numerous master's degrees with great masters such as: Bruno Canino, Randall Benway, Violetta Egorova, Joaquìn Achùcarro, Grigory Gruzman, Gerlinde Otto, Natalia Troull, Fulvio Turissini, Benedetto Lupo, Andrea Lucchesini. Currently she attends the two-year specialist course at the Accademia del Ridotto in Stradella under the guidance of M. Aquiles Delle Vigne and the three-year specialist chamber music at the Centro Studi Musica e Arte in Florence with M. Pier Narciso Masi.