Release: June 2021
The practice of transcribing a musical work originally conceived for an instrumental medium or ensemble, and to transform it into a piece for a different sound medium is an extremely ancient artistic form in its own right. Among the main qualities of sound, traditionally described as pitch, intensity and timbre, the last is frequently considered as the least important, or the most expendable. Thus, for some, transcription is simply the mechanical transposition of some “notes” from one timbre to another. On the other hand, others acquiesce too readily to the prescriptions of “authenticity” and “fidelity” (which seem occasionally to have displaced creativity as the highest criterion for judging a musical performance). For those listeners, only the sound originally conceived and heard by the composer is worth pursuing, and all other versions are more or less deplorable betrayals.
Both criticisms miss the point, of course. Firstly, in fact, even when two instruments play the same “notes”, a noteworthy degree of creativity is required of the “transcriber”. A number of interpretive choices must be taken, and they require a mature musical personality, one capable to engage with the composer’s style, musical imagination and writing when reproducing the piece on another musical medium. For instance, every instrument possesses peculiar sound qualities throughout the spectrum of its range; one instrument’s most brilliant or most powerful octave may be very different from those of an instrument with a similar range. Moreover, there are objective impossibilities, such as performing double stops or chords on a monodic instrument, or slight differences in range which force the performer to modify some notes. Choices regarding breathing, articulation, dynamics and tempo should also be made, and they may conflict with those established in the performing tradition of the original medium. This brief survey demonstrates the “artistry” of the transcription process, and that this process is worth of consideration as an intensely creative undertaking.
Moreover, a properly understood concept of “authenticity” is not bound to an antiquarian model of pure restoration of a lost sound. Though it is undoubtedly praiseworthy for some artists to engage, in cooperation with musicologists, in the reconstruction of period sonorities, instruments and performing practices (and these operations may be very creative in turn!), another kind of authenticity might rightfully claim that to be authentic is to be creative. If Baroque, Classical or Romantic composers did imagine that their works would be played after centuries (and it is likely that this idea never crossed the mind of many of them), they would have been probably surprised by our attempts to reconstruct “their” sound. Music used to be a living art, an art in process; an art in which adaptation was welcome, and the possibility of finding new ideas in older pieces was encouraged. Thus, one could say that fidelity to the spirit of the musicians whose works we play might imply a certain freedom as concerns the fidelity to the letter of their scores.
For this reason, a challenge such as that undertaken in this Da Vinci Classics album is a highly artistic, a perfectly legitimate and a thought-provoking one. At first sight, the violin (for which these Sonatas were originally written) and the flute may seem to share many qualities: both are high-pitched instruments (though the flute’s low notes are sensibly higher than the violin’s), both share a vocation as a solo instrument, and both are well suited to both expressivity and virtuosity. Yet, the differences are also numerous, and they are so important that the idea of playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Sonatas on the flute is daring and fascinating at the same time.
Among the many challenging aspects of this change of destination is undoubtedly the luxuriant and brilliant writing of these pieces. Mendelssohn was an exceptionally accomplished performer of both the piano and the violin, and therefore his writing is extremely idiomatic for both instruments. The piano part, in all of his chamber works with piano, is lavishly decorated and highly virtuosic; and while the overabundance of piano notes does never threaten to submerge the violin, when the partner is the flute the right sound balance is harder to find. The result, however, is revealing. The performance on the flute brings to light some hidden qualities of the original, and it further increases the enchanted and enchanting dimension of these pieces. The flute’s sound, which is more unearthly than that of the violin, contributes to an impression of pure magic and of supernatural beauty.
These features are even more striking when one considers the composition dates of these three pieces. The latest of them was written in 1838, when the composer was not yet thirty years old: by today’s standards, this would be a youthful work. Yet, in comparison with the other two pieces (and, sadly, considering its composer’s short life), this work belongs to Mendelssohn’s “late” period (he would die approximately ten years after its composition). The other two pieces were written when the composer was eleven and fourteen; still, they are not just the surprising affirmation of an immense musical talent, but rather they display a fully mature understanding of form, of scoring, and a lively musical creativity, blossoming with melodic, harmonic and rhythmical ideas.
It has been argued, rightly in my opinion, that Mendelssohn was the most precocious musical genius of all times. Indeed, some of his teenage works stand the test of time and have entered the Gotha of the absolute masterpieces of classical music. The Sonatas performed here are not among his most frequently played works, but doubtlessly belong among the works of a genius.
Certainly, his prodigious talent had found the right soil in his music-making and culture-loving family, where artistic stimuli abounded, and where some of the most important intellectuals of the era were usual guests (first and foremost Goethe). Moreover, Felix had the good fortune of being educated by an extremely sensible and clever musician, Carl Zelter (among whose many merits is also that of encouraging Felix’s study and appreciation of Bach, which would lead to the so called “Bach Renaissance”). The first to be composed, among the violin Sonatas performed here, dates from Mendelssohn’s years as Zelter’s pupil. Felix was eleven years old when he wrote it, but his mastery of counterpoint is convincing, skilled and fluent. An impressive feature of young Mendelssohn’s chamber music writing is the composer’s capability to realise a true dialogue between the instruments, as shown, for example, in their frequent taking turns in the presentation of the melodic material. The lyrical climax of this youthful piece is certainly represented by the splendid melodies of the second movement, in f minor, whose elegant and fresh variations represent yet another essay of the composer’s ability in treating the musical material. In the third movement, the listener is frequently surprised by the daring harmonic wanderings undertaken by the young musician, whose self-assuredness in the handling of the tonal relationships is such that he frequently abandons the calm waters of handbook harmony and ventures into distant tonal realms. Another remarkable feature of this movement is its reliance on a thematic structure based on flowing quadruplets: it is in fact an early demonstration of a constant stylistic trait of many Finale movements composed by Mendelssohn throughout his compositional career.
The second Sonata, op. 4, is the only one to which Mendelssohn gave an opus number. Although he was only fourteen at the time of its composition, it is a fully-fledged masterpiece in the somber key of f minor. Its memorable opening, with a solo recitative by the violin, sets the mood and opens the way for a thoroughly Romantic expressivity. This emerges both in the impassionate and powerful discourses of the outer movements, and in the more intimate and touching singing of the beautiful second movement. Here, Mendelssohn’s talent as a melodist is fully revealed, in the creation of unforgettable themes and in their skillful development. The Sonata also displays a cyclical concept, thanks to the presence of another violin recitative in the third movement, which closes the Sonata in an enchanted pianissimo.
The third Sonata was written fourteen years later, and had a curious doom: it was neglected at first by the composer himself, who later undertook a deep revision whose fulfilment was sadly interrupted by his untimely death. Then it lay abandoned for a century, until it was rediscovered, edited and published by Yehudi Menuhin in 1953. It is a magnificent piece, where almost all of the musical ideas and traits found in an already mature, but still youthful form in the earlier pieces find their accomplishment. Its dazzling Finale, a breathtaking whirlwind of notes, unites the child’s enthusiasm, the young man’s vitality, and the great artist’s skill, and is one of the remarkable moments of the entire chamber music repertoire.
Listening to the three Sonatas in a row is therefore a treat in itself, as it allows the audience to discover constant features and recurring elements within this series of masterpieces. Listening to them through the lens of the flute’s sound is still another bonus, as it highlights some unexpected traits which could go unnoticed even after repeated hearings. Needless to say, a composer with such a creative imagination as that displayed here would have thoroughly enjoyed the idea of discovering hidden qualities in his own works, thanks to the brilliant idea of performing them with the flute.
Album Notes Chiara Bertoglio
Massimiliano Damerini: He completed his music training in his native city Genoa, earning degrees in Piano and Composition. Damerini is one of his generation’s most emblematic performers, having played in some of the world’s best theatres and concert halls: Vienna’s Konzerthaus, London’s Barbican Hall, Milan’s La Scala Theater, Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colón, Monaco’s Herkules Saal, Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, Paris’ Salle Gaveau and Cité de la Musique, Geneva’s Victoria Hall, Zurich’s Tonhalle and Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional. Numerous piano pieces have been dedicated to him by distinguished composers like Ambrosini, Asturias, Di Bari, Donatoni, Fellegara, Ferneyhough, Gaslini, Gentilucci, Landini, Sciarrino, Skrzypczak, Sotelo and Vacchi. Also actively working as a composer (his work has been published by Da Vinci, Preludio, Rai Trade), Damerini holds advanced Master Classes all over the world. After attending one of Damerini’s performances in New York, Elliott Carter said: “Each of his concerts is an unforgettable experience”. Following Damerini’s 1997 recital in Monaco, the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung referred to him as “one of Italy’s top three pianists of our time, together with Benedetti Michelangeli and Pollini”. In 1992, he won the Italian critics’ «Premio Abbiati» for the most influential performer of the year.
Andrea Mogavero: Begins studying flute in 1992 after listening to the well-known French virtuoso Jean-Pierre RAMPAL, who becomes his principle guide and source of inspiration.
He cleverly graduates at the “Tito Schipa” Conservatory in Lecce, Italy and then he specializes with the international soloists Andrea GRIMINELLI and Claudi ARIMANY.
He collaborated with the great flutist Sir James GALWAY, with Massimiliano DAMERINI, Andrea GRIMINELLI, Claudi ARIMANY, Lady Jeanne GALWAY; with the canadian singer-songwriter Patrick WATSON, Vittoria YEO and the Luciano PAVAROTTI FOUNDATION.
In 2009 he has been invited to study at the “Ecole Normale de Musique A. Cortot” in Paris, from the Maestro Shigenori KUDO.
He has studied with important flutists as Jànos BALINT, Pierre-Yves ARTAUD and achieves the Degree in Musical Teaching Methodology at the “Nino Rota” School of Music in Monopoli, Italy; he got the Degree in Flute Soloist at the “G. Paisiello” Musical Institute in Taranto, Italy - studying with the flute teacher Angelo Malerba - and the Degree in Chamber Music. He attends “High Specializing Master for Wind Instrument Musicians in Soloist and Orchestras’ Repertoire” with Hans-Jörg SCHELLEMBERGER (1st Oboe at the Berliner Philharmonisches Orchester 1977-2001), Claudio Paradiso, Lorenzo Castriota Skanderbeg and Karl MARTIN.
He studied opera singing with Vanna Massari CAMASSA – Tito SCHIPA’s pupil.
(b Hamburg, 3 Feb 1809; d Leipzig, 4 Nov 1847). German composer. One of the most gifted and versatile prodigies, Mendelssohn stood at the forefront of German music during the 1830s and 40s, as conductor, pianist, organist and, above all, composer. His musical style, fully developed before he was 20, drew upon a variety of influences, including the complex chromatic counterpoint of Bach, the formal clarity and gracefulness of Mozart and the dramatic power of Beethoven and Weber.
Mendelssohn’s emergence into the first rank of 19th-century German composers coincided with efforts by music historiographers to develop the concept of a Classic–Romantic dialectic in 18th and 19th-century music. To a large degree, his music reflects a fundamental tension between Classicism and Romanticism in the generation of German composers after Beethoven.