Invitation à la Danse: 19th and 20th Centuries piano Music Inspired by Dance Rhythms


  • Artist(s): Calogero di Liberto
  • Composer(s): Antonin Dvorak, Ernesto Nazarteh, Federico Mompou, Frédéric Chopin, Giuseppe Lupis, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Karim Al-Zand, Komitas Vardapet, Kurt Weill, Leopold Godowsky, Mohammed S. Basha, Otto Schulhof, Paul Pabst
  • EAN Code: 7.46160913742
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Instrumental
  • Instrumentation: Piano
  • Period: Contemporary, Modern, Romantic
  • Publication year: 2022
SKU: C00542 Category:

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Dance is a philosophy, a lifestyle, rather than a mere discipline. Dancing is an activity which encompasses all times, all cultures, and all social classes. It is found wherever humankind is; indeed, some forms of dance are not the exclusive prerogative of human beings. Courtship dances – at times beautiful ones – are practised also by many non-human species.
Dancing, indeed, is strictly bound to love; in many societies, balls have been the acceptable framework within which courtship could take place. Dancing, as philosopher Roger Scruton has beautifully summarized, is a form of movement, an art and a practice which unites the generations. Different from today’s fitness, which is typically for the young and well-trained, in the past the figurations of a dance could mix couples of different ages, thus allowing intergenerational exchanges and the creation of social cohesion.
Dance, however, is by no means restricted to courtship. Many societies have all-male or all-female dances, which often are bound to initiation rites, or serve to build alliances among members of the same sex. There are children’s dances, frequently resembling games, and connected with children’s rhymes and at times with nonsense verses.
There are many sacred dances, which may range from almost-total stasis to frenzied trance; indeed, it has been argued that many worship services of even the most traditional religions could resemble dances in their ritualized forms of movement.
There is art dance, reserved for specialists and professionals: from Western ballet to the complex art forms of Japanese, Chinese or Indian artistic dance. This is a dance to be observed and admired, rather than practised by mere mortals.
There is dance without music, and dance-music without dancing. Some cultures practise forms of dance which are independent of music, and take place in silence, or to the accompaniment of simple rhythms. In other cultures, like that of Western classical music, there are musical works indicated through names coming from the world of dance (and which originally did refer to actual dances), but which were composed without intending them as material for dancing. This is the case, for example, with the famous Suites written in the Baroque era by musicians such as Bach or Handel.
In most cases, however, dance is relational. Certainly, professional dancers spend many hours in solitary training; but their goal is to achieve perfection in their movements in order to transmit emotions and feelings to an audience. The most common forms of dance, and the most numerous episodes in art ballet itself, are conceived for two or more dancers. The beautiful and artistic aspect of dance, therefore, lies not only in the graceful movements of the single dancer, expressing the perfection of the human body in his or her moves, but also in the intertwining of the steps of numerous participants.
Here, too, we follow Roger Scruton in his meaningful highlighting of the philosophical value of dancing. By following the figurations of a choreography, every dancer trains him- or herself to conceive of space as of a shared experience. Dancers learn to go back as much as they go forth; to make room for the others as much as they wish room to be made for themselves. In displaying the wonderful harmony of a dancing group where all movements are coordinated and respectfully ordered, this activity offers us an amazing model of a perfect society. This consists of a community where everybody has his or her own role, all have their place but can also freely move without limiting the freedom of others; this is possible, however, only when all aim at the achievement of a “thing of beauty”, and the individual wills submit to the needs of an elegant dance.
This relationality of dance is also what permeates this Da Vinci Classics project and the concept behind it. This album is dedicated to Jan Bogdan Drath (May 29th, 1923 – October 1st, 2016), who died five years ago and whose centenary will be celebrated soon. He was a Polish pianist, and this CD represents a heartfelt homage to his memory. And this is already a clear example of relationality – and, moreover, of a relationality transcending place and time. Just as dance moves in space within time, so this homage goes beyond national borders and the boundaries of human life itself. In some ways, it reminds us of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, a collection of piano pieces celebrating the visual art of a deceased friend; there, too, the dimension of movement was embodied in the Promenades connecting the various tableaux. Time and space bended themselves in order to pay homage to the memory of Viktor Hartmann.
And just as Mussorgsky connected each of the Pictures of that exposition to a memory, an image, a situation, so does Di Liberto weave a net of reminiscences with his choices of pieces. It is as if dance, the art of space in time, could evoke spaces beyond time through music, the art where the score’s space becomes time.
Each piece found in this collection is a dance; all have a precise meaning for the performer, and are bound to a place, to a time, to people he met and encountered in his life. And as in Scruton’s view, this is an invitation to the dance; this concept album takes the listener by hand, and leads him or her to be involved in the rhythms, tempi and gestures of some musical works. They are very different from each other, and cover a vast amount of space and time; yet, they all affirm the beauty of dancing, and how this experience is firmly established in our worldview and in our self-perception.
The album opens with a Tango by Albéniz/Godowsky. As with many other cases, a successful original work attracted the attention of a composer/virtuoso (as was pianist Godowsky). They wished to enjoy the experience of playing that beautiful music, but also – more practically – to exploit the success of the original piece, as well as to find new occasions for demonstrating their astonishing technique and musicianship. It is followed by a Menuet à l’Antique by Paderewski, a multifaceted figure of politician, musician and virtuoso from Poland. In this case, the inspiration comes from the rediscovery of Baroque music by Romantic and late-Romantic composers, who came to prize the composed forms of early modern dancing, deeply different from the more involving and sensuous styles of contemporaneous dances. The scores of both these initial pieces were kindly offered to the performer of this album when he visited New York City in 1996. These works were presented to him by a friend of Drath, this CD’s dedicatee, who was a Pole in turn – and this partly explains the attention for a neglected part of the Polish repertoire.
By way of contrast, the third piece is very famous. It is a transcription after one of the most celebrated dances of all times, the Slavonic Dance op. 72 no. 2 written by Antonin Dvořák. In this case, the transcription is realized by Di Liberto himself, who took inspiration from two of the various versions in which this beautiful piece exists, i.e. that for piano duet and that for orchestra. This piece is particularly evocative for him: he recalls that, when he was a child, it constituted the soundtrack of many family trips, when he traveled by car with his parents. Childhood memories are therefore powerfully evoked by the mere mention of this tune.
We move further East with the following piece, an Armenian dance by Vardapet. In this case, the piece came to be part of this collection thanks to a more recent friendship, that between the performer and the producer of this album. Edmondo Filippini, the Artistic Director of Da Vinci, suggested that an example of the astonishingly rich musical tradition of Armenia could be a welcome addition to this programme, representing a different musical idiom whose roots are no less ancient and noble than those of the other pieces performed here.
Poland, the homeland of the CD’s dedicatee, is once more the protagonist with one of the most touching Waltzes among the many authored by Frédéric Chopin. This piece was among Jan Bogdan Drath’s favourites, with its enchanting melancholy and profound significance. Drath had even edited a published score of this waltz, which he had carefully studied by collating the various extant versions. This performance is therefore, possibly, a homage within the homage.
The following piece was inserted again at the suggestion of Edmondo Filippini, who proposed the possibility of completing the geographic itinerary with an example from the South. In this case, the country represented by this dance is Egypt, in whose life the lymph of the Nile flows abundantly.
The role of dance on the theatrical stage is represented by Kurt Weill’s piece, excerpted from the Beggar’s Opera. In this case, dance becomes also a narrative element, fostering the transmission and expression of atmospheres, values and concepts.
Two other iconic works represent two cultures owing much to each other. The Tarantella is one of the best-known Italian dances (and this is partly due to the international success of Rossini’s); the other is a Foxtrot, a quintessentially North-American product. Their composers represent the close relationships between the European Peninsula and the US, whose fates are strictly bound to each other at least since the time of Italian immigration to America. The composer of the Tarantella, Karim Al-Zand, has also been one of the Professors with whom Di Liberto studied at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University of Houston. This constitutes a further element of “relationship” within the net established in this album.
The Spanish tradition is represented by the fascinating diptych of Cancion y Danza by Mompou. Here, the stimulus for its inclusion came from Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s unforgettable interpretation of the Cancion, which, however, he used to perform independently from the following Danza.
The Tango brasileiro embodies the rich musical tradition of Brazil. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a Brazilian music which cannot be danced, so strict is the relationship between the great South-American country and its love for dance. In this case, this piece used to be performed by a Brazilian friend of Di Liberto; the protagonist of this album was thunderstricken by the beauty of its rhythm and harmony.
Schulhoff’s transcription of the exceedingly famous Pizzicato Polka is the perfect expression of the Viennese tradition. That tradition lived, among others, in the figure of Paul Badura Skoda, the recently deceased pianist, musicologist and pedagogue, who played this piece in Palermo, on the occasion of a master course he was giving there. Di Liberto was enthused by this piece, and – back home – Badura Skoda kindly sent him the score.
The cycle closes with Pabst’s wonderful transcription of one of the most famous dances of all times, excerpted from the magnificent ballet Sleeping Beauty by Tchaikovsky. In this case, the composer knew and appreciated the transcription, which is one of the many realized by Pabst.
Throughout this itinerary, Di Liberto aimed at highlighting the singing potential of dance; this view also constitutes the quintessentially Italian expression of his own musicianship. Singing, like music, and like dance, is a relational activity; through Di Liberto’s feelings, memories and reminiscences, we are also introduced to his artistic world, embodied by these beautiful dances.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2021


Calogero Di Liberto

Grand prize winner of the Chopin International Piano Competition in Corpus Christi, USA, of the Internationalen Sommerakademie Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and of the Concurso International Compositores de Espana in Madrid, Spain, Italian concert pianist Calogero Di Liberto continues to win praise for his warm musicianship, technical prowess at the piano and wide range of repertoire.

Calogero Di Liberto’s career has taken him across Europe, throughout the United States, and in Asia. He has given recitals at Carnegie Hall, Columbia University in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, the Shepherd School of Music in Houston, the Grosser Saal, Wiener Saal, and Solitär of the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Music Conservatory in Ciudad Real, Spain, the Bocconi University in Milan, the Teatro Politeama in Palermo, Italy, and in the following theaters in China: Gengsu Theatre in Nantong, Broadcasting & TV Center Studio Theatre in Fuzhou, Hundred Flowers Theater in Wuhu, Poly Theatre in Ma’anshan, Anhui Theatre in Hefei, Friendship Theater in Guangzhou, Xingyan Theater in Zhaoqing, Poly Theater in Shenzhen, Haikou Great Hall of People, Nanjing Arts Institute Concert Hall, Yangzhou Concert Hall, Zhenjiang Nanshan Theatre, Nanning Theatre, Jinchang Workers Cultural Palace, and Dingxi City Hall Auditorium.

In the USA he has been guest of the TCU Cliburn Institute in Fort Worth, the Chopin Society of Texas in Corpus Christi, and the Woodlands Symphony Orchestra. Other international appearances include the Fundacion Juan March and the Juventudes Musicales in Spain, Kawai and the Mosel Festwochen in Germany, television in Slovenia, Festival International Echternach in Luxembourg, Festival of St. Prex, Switzerland, Joseph Haydn Konservatorium in Eisenstadt, Austria, Music Akademy Ignacy Jan Paderewski of Poznań, Poland, and the Jiangsu International Piano Master Music Festival of Nanjing, China.

In his native Italy Mr. Di Liberto has appeared at the Amici della Musica in Modica, Associazione Musicale Ernico-Simbruina in Frosinone, the Liszt Institute in Bologna, Associazione Ester Mazzoleni in Palermo, Festival Pianistico di Roma, International Chamber Music Festival "Suoni delle Madonie", Associazione Mozart Italia in Rovereto, Bologna Festival, Mantua Chamber Music Festival, and the Amici della Musica in Montegranaro.

The American composer Karim Al-Zand wrote Pattern Preludes and Tarantella for Di Liberto. On July 2014 Albany Records released a CD with Lieder composed on lyrics by Rabinandranath Tagore, where Mr. Di Liberto collaborated with mezzo-soprano Aidan Soder and baritone Paul Bausselberg.

Very active in chamber music, he has performed with bass Simone Alaimo, tenor Fabio Armiliato, baritones Roberto Servile and Leo Nucci, mezzo-soprano Luciana D'Intino, violinist Cristiano Rossi, and cellists Christoph Henkel and Gautier Capuçon.

Mr. Di Liberto was born in Agrigento, Italy. He started his studies under the guidance of Giulio Arena in Palermo and continued with Bruno Canino in Milan. In 1999 he completed the Master of Music in Piano at the Rotterdam Conservatory (Holland) with Aquiles Delle Vigne. In 2002 he pursued the Artist Diploma at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth (USA) where he studied with Tamas Ungar and Harold Martina.
In 2006 Mr. Di Liberto earned the Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance at Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, in Houston (USA) with Jon Kimura Parker.


Antonin Dvorak: (b Nelahozeves, nr Kralupy, 8 Sept 1841; d Prague, 1 May 1904). Czech composer. With Smetana, Fibich and Janáček he is regarded as one of the great nationalist Czech composers of the 19th century. Long neglected and dismissed by the German-speaking musical world as a naive Czech musician, he is now considered by both Czech and international musicologists Smetana’s true heir. He earned worldwide admiration and prestige for 19th-century Czech music with his symphonies, chamber music, oratorios, songs and, to a lesser extent, his operas.

Ernesto (Júlio de) Nazareth [Nazaré]
(b Rio de Janeiro, 20 March 1863; d Rio de Janeiro, 4 Feb 1934). Brazilian composer and pianist. He studied the piano with his mother, with Eduardo Madeira and with Lucien Lambert, who gave him an intimate knowledge of Chopin’s music, which became influential on his own work. By 1877, when the polka Você bem sabe was published by Artur Napoleão, he had begun to compose in the current popular dance genres, and as a pianist he worked exclusively in light music. From 1919 he was employed by the publishing house of Carlos Gomes (later Carlos Wehrs), performing scores for clients, and he played daily in the Odeon cinema (1920–24), where Villa-Lobos had worked a few years earlier as a cellist, and for which he wrote the famous tango Odeon. Nazareth won wide popularity in the 1920s and toured the states of São Paulo and Rio Grande in 1921 and 1932. The tangos established him as the most influential Brazilian popular composer of the 20th century; Villa-Lobos praised him as ‘the true incarnation of the Brazilian soul’. Nazareth was responsible for producing national types of such dances as the polka and the tango, and for creating a model for the maxixe. His waltzes and tangos were sources of inspiration for numerous composers, including Milhaud, Villa-Lobos, L. Fernandez, Mignone and Gnattali. His music enjoyed great success in the late 20th century, and by the 1970s had been recorded and published in Europe and the USA.

Frédéric Chopin: (b Żelazowa Wola, nr Warsaw, 1 March 1810; d Paris, 17 Oct 1849). Polish composer and pianist. He combined a gift for melody, an adventurous harmonic sense, an intuitive and inventive understanding of formal design and a brilliant piano technique in composing a major corpus of piano music. One of the leading 19th-century composers who began a career as a pianist, he abandoned concert life early; but his music represents the quintessence of the Romantic piano tradition and embodies more fully than any other composer’s the expressive and technical characteristics of the instrument.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski
He was born to Jan Paderewski, a land agent of modest means but noble extraction, and Poliksena Nowicka, who died shortly after he was born. His earliest years were spent with his father and sister in a small manor house near Zhitomir in Podolia, but following the arrest of his father (suspected of participation in the 1863 uprising) he moved to the home of an aunt and from there to Sudyłkow near Szepetowska (now Shepetovka), where his father, now released and remarried, had secured employment. At an early age he took lessons with Piotr Sowiński, but in most essentials he was self-taught, and he quickly gained a reputation as a gifted pianist and outstanding improviser. In the summer of 1872, in his 12th year, he was taken to Warsaw where he was admitted to the Music Institute (Conservatory). He graduated in 1878. For some years Paderewski earned a meagre income in Warsaw from teaching and composing. They were difficult years. He married in 1880, but his wife died in childbirth and their son Alfred was born disabled. Moreover his career showed little sign of taking off, until, in Berlin, he made the acquaintance of Richard Strauss and Anton Rubinstein among others. Rubinstein gave him badly needed encouragement to pursue a career as a pianist and composer, and by the mid-1880s Paderewski was beginning to net a tolerable income from the sale of published salon pieces of admittedly mediocre quality.

Kurt Weill: (b Dessau, 2 March 1900; d New York, 3 April 1950). German composer, American citizen from 1943. He was one of the outstanding composers in the generation that came to maturity after World War I, and a key figure in the development of modern forms of musical theatre. His successful and innovatory work for Broadway during the 1940s was a development in more popular terms of the exploratory stage works that had made him the foremost avant-garde theatre composer of the Weimar Republic.

Leopold [Leonid] Godowsky
(b Soshly, nr Vilnius, 13 Feb 1870; d New York, 21 Nov 1938). American pianist and composer of Polish birth. Following the death of his father, he exhibited a precocious aptitude for music under the guidance of foster-parents in Vilnius. By the age of five he had already started to compose, as well as being proficient on both piano and violin. He gave his first piano recital when he was nine and subsequently toured throughout Lithuania and East Prussia. After studying briefly with Ernst Rudorff at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik he left for America, where he made his first appearance, in Boston, in 1884. In 1885 he appeared in a series of concerts at the New York Casino, and the following year toured the north-eastern USA and Canada with the violinist Ovide Musin. From 1887 to 1890 he was a protégé of Saint-Saëns in Paris, supporting himself by playing in fashionable salons both there and in London. On his return to the USA in 1890 he joined the staff of the New York College of Music, and later held teaching posts in Philadelphia and Chicago. During the 1890s he formulated his theories regarding the application of relaxed weight and economy of motion in piano playing; he also started to make concert arrangements of other composers' works, including the first of his studies on the études of Chopin.

Paul Pabst
(b Königsberg [now Kaliningrad], 27 May 1854; d Moscow, 9 June 1897). German pianist, teacher and composer. He and his elder brother Louis (b Königsberg, 18 July 1846; d Moscow, after 1903) were sons of August Pabst (b Elberfeld, 30 May 1811; d Riga, 21 July 1885), an opera composer and latterly director of the Riga Conservatory. Whereas Louis spent several years in Australia, founding the Melbourne Academy of Music in 1887 (where Grainger was one of his pupils), Paul, who studied with Anton Door in Vienna and later with Liszt, settled in Russia. From 1878 until his premature death he taught with considerable success at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his pupils were Igumnov, Aleksandr Gol'denveyzer, Gedike, Beckman-Shcherbina, Buyukli, Konyus and Medtner. Though a noted interpreter of Schumann and Liszt, Paul Pabst is remembered today for a virtuoso paraphrase of Tchaikovsky's Yevgeny Onegin. His other compositions include a piano concerto and a trio. Louis Pabst, who also wrote several piano pieces, went to Russia in 1897 and two years later became a teacher at the music school of the Philharmonic Society in Moscow.