Release: June 2021
Barocko is a journey through the world of music and its most disparate genres, led by the adventurous and fortunate story of the cello. It is the cello that pilots this phantasmagoric itinerary covering more than four centuries.
The origins of the cello date back to the late 16th century. Initially it was employed only as a harmonic and rhythmical support for the principal part (constituting the so-called continuo). Later it acquired an increasing importance for both performers and composers. By the 18th century, it established its role as a protagonist of the musical world, thanks to extraordinary figures such as those of J. S. Bach (whose Suites are true milestones), A. Vivaldi (who composed dozens of solo works for it) and L. Boccherini, a great composer/interpreter who broadened the cello’s technique and repertoire.
The fact that these excellent composers were interested in the cello was also due to this instrument’s formidable possibilities as concerns sound (the cello is indeed a true miracle of artistic craftmanship and acoustic engineering) and range, which is the widest in the family of the string instruments.
Even though the original musical literature for cello quartet is very scanty, this ensemble is wonderfully suited for performing arrangements of pieces conceived for other sound media thanks to the instrument’s flexibility and characteristics.
The seeming heterogeneity of the pieces we chose actually follows a red thread. The itinerary begins with Vivaldi, one of the protagonists of the Baroque era, conceived (according to the German philosopher Walter Benjamin) as the cradle of modern culture due to its new worldview. It is in fact the moment when ancient certainties started to crumble, paving the way for modern relativism. The musical “seeds” planted in this historical period blossomed in the following centuries, in a variety of forms, and not only in the so-called “cultivated” repertoire.
We therefore passed spontaneously from Vivaldi’s Baroque to Led Zeppelin’s, Queen’s and Metallica’s rock music , touching Tchaikovsky, Piazzolla and Bernstein in passing. These are the many faces of a single great world, to which the cello gave voice. Giovanni Sollima enters naturally in this journey of ours. Similar to many Baroque artists, his figure links the activities of composer and interpreter, opening up unexplored horizons of the cello repertoire.
For this reason, Note Sconte is found at the heart of this journey. It was written by Sollima starting from notes and fragments of musical ideas which Beethoven did not employ in his finished works: this piece represents an ideal bridge between the so-called “cultivated” music and the music of our day.
The Concerto for two cellos and orchestra RV 531 was composed by Vivaldi around 1715, and it is one of the first pieces in which the cello has a soloistic role.
The idea of rethinking Vivaldi’s concerto for our quartet was suggested by the nature of its components, following the founding spirit of the CelloPlayQuartet. This means that there will not be one or two soloists accompanied by the others who play the orchestral parts; rather, everyone participates as a protagonist. The solo parts are distributed among the members and constitute true dialogues; at times these may be lively and almost contrastive, at times they are conciliatory and affectionate, playing on the spatial movements of the musical ideas. All this happens while highlighting the great rhythmic power of Vivaldi’s music: a trait which inspired many composers and rock bands.
P. I. Tchaikovsky
The six miniatures selected here come from the Album for the Youth Op. 39. It is a collection of 24 short piano pieces written in 1878 which earned an immediate success. They soon elicited the composition of numerous arrangements for the most varied ensembles. It is wonderful to note how Tchaikovsky was able to concentrate a great richness of content within pieces of an almost aphoristic length. The variety of nuances obtained out of the key of E-minor is impressive: it sounds melancholic in Winter morning, grotesque and ghostly in Baba Yaga, solemn and dramatic in the longer In the church.
As concerns Note Sconte, we think it our duty to leave the floor to the composer himself, i.e. Giovanni Sollima.
“One day some years ago (I believe it was in 2015), Mario Brunello called me and told me about a concert he wanted to dedicate to the great Franco Rossi, and in which he was to play in a cello ensemble with his pupils. I accepted [his commission] with great emotion, for a variety of reasons, firstly for an affective motive dating back to my student years: I worked a little on the cello repertoire with Franco Rossi among others, and I will never forget an intense – and also very humorous – lesson on Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata. Secondly, I accepted due to the cello ensemble: it is an ensemble I cherish highly, since I wrote for up to a hundred cellos! Thirdly, it was a spiritual link with Franco Rossi, who dedicated a great part of his life to Beethoven. I focused on the ‘hidden’ Beethoven, the one of the notes he never employed, those which remained at the embryonic stage and which are collected in the beautiful Biamonti catalogue (I may know it by heart, considering that I own it since I was a child). I remember that Mario’s phone call preceded a tour in Australia. During the free days, my mind elaborated a kind of a development for Beethoven’s fragments, which I unconsciously juxtaposed to aboriginal songs and rhythms, along with a recurring thought – the architecture of the Presto from the QuartetOop. 131, which I reconsidered and explored in my own fashion and backwards… Then, in 2017, on the occasion of a reunion of the 100 Cellos in Lucca, my dear friend Filippo Burchietti invited me to listen to a version he had created for his quartet. I found it splendid, since it made me discover new aspects, details and ‘corners’ of the piece.
And here finally comes the first recording for the ensemble I cherish most, the one for ‘solo’ cellos, thanks to my skilled friends of the CelloPlayQuartet”.
The three songs we chose out of the rock repertoire all contain traces of elements unique to the so-called classical music: at times these are very evident, at times they are more hidden.
Bohemian Rhapsody (1975) by Queen is a piece divided into five sections: Ballad, Guitar solo, Opera, Hard Rock, and Ballad again. This structural complexity is an absolutely unusual fact for a rock piece. Actually, Queen were even discouraged from proposing it as a single piece, because no radio would have broadcast a song of such length (about six minutes). Its ideation is considered to represent a turning point in the musical experimentation begun by the group leader, Freddie Mercury. The explicit references to the world of opera reveal their ambition to break the fences separating the various musical genres, underpinning their points of connection rather than their differences.
Nothing Else Matters (1991) by Metallica is structured almost as a Passacaglia in its initial part, which is recalled as a closing section towards the end. It employs few means and has a sobriety which are very close to the “cultivated” repertoire.
The same process is observed also in the beginning section of Stairway to Heaven (1971) by Led Zeppelin. Whilst the pace of the Metallica’s piece remains bound to the initial steps even in the tensest moments, the piece by the Led Zeppelin progressively presses on through the agogic element, up to the great guitar solo unchaining the rock section of the piece. One of the hardest challenges in this arrangement was to render satisfactorily this solo on the cello.
Among those who attempted to merge various musical genres, destroying the boundaries which some critics wanted to remain unsurpassable, Astor Piazzolla deserves a place of honour.
Fuga y misterio, excerpted from his opera Maria de Buenos Aires (1968) is an explicit homage to the great J.S. Bach. It begins as a four-part fugue, written in rigid observance of the canonic rules. However, the mark of the Argentinian composer is palpably felt in the subject’s character. Later, when the fourth voice has completed the exposition of the subject, the theme is projected into an explosion of a porteño rhythm, within which an episode charged with sensuousness and melancholy is found. It has nothing in common with Bach anymore, but it leads us directly to an ideal street of Buenos Aires.
Oblivion, another extremely famous piece taken from the soundtrack for Bellocchio’s Henry IV (1984) leads us back to a touching and fabulous atmosphere, whose fascination is found in its ability to balance painful lightings with sudden retreats.
We finally chose to unite Maria, the famous song by Leonard Bernstein, taken from his masterpiece, West Side Story (1957), with a seemingly very distant piece, such as the theme song of the extremely famous TV series The Simpsons (1989). The interval of augmented fourth constituting the kernel of both pieces connects them with each other in an underground fashion. It is not an analogy one immediately catches, but rather a more secret affinity. It indicates how some great composers (such as Bernstein and Elfman in this case) are able to merge the popular and the cultivated in a supreme harmony, even in their seemingly “lighter” works.
Celloplay Quartet: Nasce nel 2015 dal desiderio di quattro musicisti che da anni si conoscono e lavorano insieme, in multiformi contesti musicali. Un quartetto di violoncelli per sfruttare l’enorme gamma timbrica e espressiva che questo strumento possiede.
Caratteristiche fondanti del nostro gruppo sono il costante confronto che non diventa rivalità, lo scambio proficuo per approfondire insieme lo studio dell’interpretazione e della tecnica dello strumento; la voglia di rileggere il repertorio con un occhio diverso, vivace, curioso e aperto ai molteplici stimoli.
I componenti del quartetto hanno fatto percorsi molto diversi per provenienza geografica, età, percorso artistico personale. Questa eterogeneità è linfa vitale per il gruppo: non ci sono maestri e allievi, non c’è un leader, non ci sono ruoli fissi, ma un continuo scambio di idee e suggerimenti.
Questo incontro ha anche stimolato la curiosità per la musica di tutti i tempi e di tutti i generi, cercando di superare i limiti che spesso vengono imposti, per suonare tutta la musica "bella", a qualunque genere appartenga.
Così il repertorio spazia da Bach a Piazzolla, da Purcell ai Queen, da Vivaldi a Sollima, attraversando quindi tutti i generi musicali: dalla classica al rock, dal pop alla musica sudamericana.
L’obiettivo del CelloPlayQuartet è quello di suggerire l’idea di una società dove persone di formazione e generazioni differenti possano incontrarsi, vivere e lavorare in armonia, convinte del fatto che ognuno può arricchire l’altro grazie agli intenti e ideali comuni.
Il linguaggio musicale compie spesso questi piccoli miracoli: un insieme di persone di provenienza e generazioni differenti si incontrano lavorando in armonia, condividendo le energie e le esperienze, può dare un contributo, attraverso la bellezza della musica, a migliorare il nostro mondo.
Filippo Burchietti, Simone Centauro
Francesca Gaddi, Cristiano Sacchi
Antonio Vivaldi: (b Venice, 4 March 1678; d Vienna, 27/8 July 1741). Italian composer. The most original and influential Italian composer of his generation, he laid the foundations for the mature Baroque concerto. His contributions to musical style, violin technique and the practice of orchestration were substantial, and he was a pioneer of orchestral programme music.
Astor Piazzolla: (b Mar del Plata, 11 March 1921; d Buenos Aires, 5 July 1992). Argentine composer, bandleader and bandoneón player. A child prodigy on the bandoneón, Piazzolla and his family emigrated to New York in 1924; in his teens he became acquainted with Gardel, for whom he worked as a tour guide, translator and occasional performer. Piazzolla returned to Buenos Aires in 1937 where he gave concerts and made tango arrangements for Aníbal Troilo, a leading bandleader; he also studied classical music with Ginastera. In 1944 Piazzolla left Troilo’s band to form the Orquesta del 46 as a vehicle for his own compositions. A symphony composed in 1954 for the Buenos Aires PO won him a scholarship to study in Paris with Boulanger, who encouraged him in the composition of tangos; the following year he resettled in Argentina and formed the Octeto Buenos Aires and, later, the Quinteto Nuevo Tango, which performed at his own club, Jamaica. Piazzolla left Argentina in 1974, settling in Paris, where he composed a concerto for bandoneón and a cello sonata for Rostropovich, among other works.
Piazzolla’s distinctive brand of tango, later called ‘nuevo tango’, initially met with resistance. Including fugue, extreme chromaticism, dissonance, elements of jazz and, at times, expanded instrumentation, it was condemned by the old-guard, including not only most tango composers and bandleaders but also Borges, whose short story El hombre de la Esquina Rosada was the basis for Piazzolla’s El tango (1969); like tango itself, Piazzolla’s work first found general approval outside Argentina, principally in France and the USA. By the 1980s, however, Piazzolla’s music was widely accepted even in his native country, where he was now seen as the saviour of tango, which during the 1950s and 60s had declined in popularity and appeal. In the late 1980s Piazzolla’s works began to be taken up by classical performers, in particular the Kronos Quartet, who commissioned Five Tango Sensations (1989). In all he composed about 750 works, including film scores for Tangos: the Exile of Gardel (1985) and Sur (1987). Shortly before his death, he was commissioned to write an opera on the life of Gardel.
Giovanni Sollima was born in Palermo in 1962 into a family of musicians. He studied in Palermo, Salzburg and Stuttgart, and, still a teenager, embarked on a brilliant international career of cellist, collaborating with Claudio Abbado, Martha Argerich, Jorg Demus and Giuseppe Sinopoli.
Alongside the soloist carrer, his creative curiosity led him to explore new frontiers in the field of Composition: his unmistakable style is characterized by contaminations between different genres: minimalism, rock, electronic and ethnic music from all over the Mediterranean area, with echoes of ancient and baroque music, on the basis of a thorough classical training.
His music has been played by classical performers such as Yo-Yo Ma, Riccardo Muti, Antonio Pappano, Daniele Gatti, Gidon Kremer with the Kremerata Baltica, Ivan Fischer, Mischa Maisky, Viktoria Mullova, Yuri Bashmet with the Moscow Soloists, Sol Gabetta, Katia and Marielle Labeque, Ruggero Raimondi, Mario Brunello, Bruno Canino, La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra, the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Il Giardino Armonico, the Accademia Bizantina, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker String Quintet, the Berliner Konzerthausorchester, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Manchester Camerata, the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and the pop stars Patti Smith, Larry Coryell, Mauro Pagani, Stefano Bollani, Elisa (protagonist of his opera Ellis Island).
For cinema and television he composed for Peter Greenaway (The Tulse Luper Suitcases and Nightwatching), John Turturro (Evidence for a Sicilian Tragedy), Carlos Saura (La Jota), Marco Tullio Giordana (One Hundred Steps and The Best Youth), Lasse Gjertsen (Daydream). For the theater he wrote and performed music for directors such as Robert Wilson, Alessandro Baricco, Peter Stein. In 2006 Peter Greenaway chose his music for the large installation staged in Amsterdam in the fourth centenary of Rembrandt. In the dance field he collaborated with many great choreographers, such as Karole Armitage, Bebe Miller and Carolyn Carlson who, at the Venice Biennale, made him play on stage, among the dancers, using his scenic charisma.
As a soloist, or with different instrumental groups, he performed his compositions all over the world: the Carnegie Hall, the Merkin Hall and the Brooklyn Academy Music in New York, La Scala in Milan, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Wigmore Hall in London, the Salle Gaveau in Paris, the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, the Liszt Academy in Budapest, the Istanbul International Festival, the Tokyo Summer Festival, the Sydney Opera House, the Tanglewood Festival, the Santa Cecilia Auditorium in Rome, the Venice Biennale, the Ravenna Festival, the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Kronberg Festival, the Kunstfest in Weimar, the Lockenhaus Festival, the Amsterdam Biennäle, the Piatigorsky Festival in Los Angeles, the opening of the Italian Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai with La Scala Orchestra, with tours in the UK, Holland, the U.S.A., Canada, Russia, Japan, China, Australia. Prestigious venues, as well as alternative ones, nearer to the younger audience, such as the Knitting Factory in New York, a real underground temple, when the Pulitzer Prize Justin Davidson describes him as “The Jimi Hendrix of the Cello”. Remarkable is the cello performance in the Sahara Desert and the one underwater in a sicilian’ gebbia (a tank for irrigation’ water).
In 2012 he had been the main creator and the artistic director of the explosive musical ensemble of the 100 Cellos, which in six years had performed with his “Itinerant Festival” in Rome, Milan, Budapest, Turin, Ravenna and Lucca.
The Municipality of Milan commissioned to Sollima the sound theme for Expo 2015, which inaugurated the new exhibition hall for the Pietà Rondanini by Michelangelo.
On June 2, 2017, for the Festa della Repubblica, he performed a concert at the Quirinale in front of the Presidents of the Republic and of the Chambers, and all the ambassadors from all over the world. Right now he is writing the music for the next movie by Anatoly Vasiliev.
Among the many cd, we remember Aquilarco for Point Music/Polygram (on invitation by Philip Glass), Works and When We Were Trees for Sony, Neapolitain Concertos and the Sonatas for Cello by Giovanni Battista Costanzi for Glossa Music, Caravaggio, 100 Cellos live at Teatro Valle and Aquilarco live in New York for Egea Music, Onyricon, Il Caravaggio rubato and A Clandestine Night in Rome for Decca.
Sollima plays a cello Francesco Ruggeri (Cremona, 1679). Moreover he uses in his creations western and eastern acoustic instruments and electrical and electronic tools, mixed with others of his own invention, such as the aquilarco, and others especially made for him, like the tenor violin present in the paintings of Caravaggio and an ice-cello that in the winter of 2007 he played at 3200 meters above sea level, in an igloo’ theater built in a glacier of the Dolomites.
Since 2010, he’s been teaching at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, where he was awarded the title of Academician.
He publishes his works with Casa Musicale Sonzogno in Milan.
Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky: (b Kamsko-Votkinsk, Vyatka province, 25 April/7 May 1840; d St Petersburg, 25 Oct/6 Nov 1893). Russian composer. He was the first composer of a new Russian type, fully professional, who firmly assimilated traditions of Western European symphonic mastery; in a deeply original, personal and national style he united the symphonic thought of Beethoven and Schumann with the work of Glinka, and transformed Liszt’s and Berlioz’s achievements in depictive-programmatic music into matters of Shakespearian elevation and psychological import (Boris Asaf’yev).