Operatic Soiree: Fantasias for Clarinet and Piano after Verdi, Puccini and Mascagni


  • Artist(s): Emanuele Salvatore Anzalone, Paola Gabriella Milazzo
  • Composer(s): Carlo Della Giacoma, Donato Lovreglio, Giuseppe Leonesi, Luigi Bassi
  • EAN Code: 7.46160913834
  • Edition: Da Vinci Edition
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Clarinet, Piano
  • Period: Contemporary, Modern
  • Publication year: 2022
SKU: C00549 Category:

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For most of the nineteenth century, Italian music unavoidably revolved around opera; the greatest musicians focused almost entirely on it. All musical expressions were echoes of what happened at theatre. Therefore, instrumental academies and chamber concerts in general favoured programmes with a clear operatic imprint. There, the most beloved and applauded themes heard in theatres were brilliantly varied, reworked and proposed in the form of Variations, Fantasies, Potpourris, paraphrases… these compositions were often realized by the same virtuoso instrumentalists who seconded the taste of the coeval audience. Immediately after a successful opera’s premiere, there appeared its more or less virtuoso reductions, springing forth from the most beautiful themes of the opera itself. The greatest part of these works was substantially conceived for use in salons and/or for pedagogy. Nineteenth-century salons required from soloists the expression and the typical characters of belcanto, along with an acrobatic virtuosity. This was a direct derivation of the “Paganini-phenomenon” and of his school. In the early nineteenth century, this determined a certain taste for spectacular concertising. Pedagogical purposes also contributed substantially to the dissemination of this repertoire, which was considered as indispensable for the development of expressive cantabile performance and of a solid performing technique in the pupils. Rather frequently, in fact, the same clarinetists/pedagogues composed operatic paraphrases for students’ concerts, academies or exams. Also outside Italy, throughout the nineteenth century, operatic fantasies were very appreciated and widespread, as can be seen by observing the catalogues of the works published by the greatest European clarinetists.


Luigi Bassi
(Cremona 1833 – Milan, 1871)
A clarinetist and pedagogue who studied at the Conservatory of Milan, from 1853 to 1871 he was principal clarinetist in the orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala. He enjoyed the respect of many of his contemporaries, including Hans von Bülow who defined him a “very capable artist”, and of many composers who dedicated their clarinet works to him. He published, along with some pedagogical works, many pieces for the clarinet: divertimenti, variations, concert fantasies, paraphrases, reminiscences… this all was based on operatic themes which doubtlessly conquered the taste of the audience of his time.

Fantasia da concerto su “Rigoletto”
Giuseppe Verdi
The piece opens with the dramatic and martial sequence of chords taken from the Prelude to Act I, followed by a virtuoso cadenza by the clarinet, interspersed with the piano’s chords. The agitated orchestral notes describing Rigoletto’s feelings in the recitative “Signori, in essa è tutta la mia famiglia” (Act I) follow.
Then comes the clarinet’s variation in demisemiquavers on the duet “Piangi, piangi fanciulla”, and the famous beginning of the quartet “Bella figlia dell’amore” (Act III).
The piano exposes the festive introduction to “Della mia bella incognita” (Act I) before leaving the floor to the clarinet with the arias “Caro nome” (Act I) and “Parmi veder le lagrime” (Act II), elaborated and varied in a crescendo of spectacular virtuosity.
The passages among the sections are all marked by spectacular free cadenzas by the clarinet.
Donato Lovreglio
(Bari, 1841 – Naples, 1907)
A flutist and composer, born in Bari but active in Naples, he dedicated himself to his instrument introducing in Italy the Böhm system, as well as to the clarinet, to which he consecrated several operatic Fantasies derived from numerous operas, including La Traviata, Simon Boccanegra, Don Carlo and Un ballo in Maschera by Giuseppe Verdi, Maria Stuarda by Gaetano Donizetti, Norma by Vincenzo Bellini etc.

Fantasia op. 45 su motivi de “La Traviata”
Giuseppe Verdi
Here thematic material excerpted from the opera’s first act is reworked and varied. The piece opens with the concluding notes of the duet “Un dì felice, eterea”; immediately, a first virtuoso cadenza of the clarinet leads to the faithful exposition of the aria “Ah, fors’è lui”, later presented again in a virtuoso variation by the clarinet. A new cadenza leads to revisiting the famous toast “Libiamo nei lieti calici”, later varied with dotted rhythms. Then follows the famous theme of “Amami, Alfredo”, later varied in demisemiquavers scale, and followed by a last cadenza by the clarinet before the romanza “Sempre libera degg’io” and a virtuoso coda, closing brilliantly, in affrettando, the Fantasy.

Giuseppe Leonesi
(Cento, Ferrara, 1833 – Brescia, 1901)
He studied at the Liceo Musicale of Bologna. Later he taught at Musical Institutes and directed the municipal wind bands at first in Ferrara and later in La Spezia. He invented a “Leonesi clarinet” in a double key, which avoided the use of several instruments of different size in orchestra playing. He issued many works for the clarinet: capricci, divertimenti, fantasies. Almost all of them were based on themes from operas.

Solo e Romanza nell’opera “La forza del destino”
Giuseppe Verdi
This piece rehearses almost faithfully the entire “scene and romanza” introducing the opera’s third act. It opens with the orchestra’s martial chords opening the Act, here entrusted to the piano. The chorus “Attenti al gioco” follows (here played by clarinet and piano), and the long, sweet, and famous “solo” written by Verdi for the “Paganini of the clarinet”, Ernesto Cavallini. A short mention of the recitative with which don Alvaro introduces the heartbreaking narrative “Della natal sua terra” is followed by the beautiful romanza “Oh tu, che in seno agli angeli”. The vocal part is entirely entrusted to the clarinet, while the piano plays the varied orchestral supporting music.

Carlo Della Giacoma
(Verona, 1858 – Todi, 1929)
He was a composer, musicologist, teacher, and orchestra conductor. In the early 1870s, he studied music at the Collegio militare in Milan, and later at the Liceo musicale in Turin. In 1877 he began his military career in the Royal Italian Army; this continued for twenty-seven years, at first as a clarinet player, and later of a chief musician, in Ancona, Livorno, Trapani, Palermo and Mantua. Having left the army due to seniority and age on January 1st, 1904, he settled in Todi where he accepted the role of director of the municipal wind band, of teacher at the municipal school and of music teacher. In the Twenties, political matters heavily interfered with the musician’s life. In 1923, having lost his jobs, he was the object of vexations, aggressions, and restrictive measures enacted by the newly installed regime. His strong character, his steadfast moral rigour, his noble civic sense, his courage, his objectivity, his balance, his educational vocation, his intellectual honesty did not prevent his nervous collapse. A desperate gesture – suicide by means of a firearm – ended his difficult life. His numerous compositions are still to be rediscovered, and include orchestral, chamber music, vocal, and piano works. He also wrote musicological and pedagogical works. His stays in several places favoured his establishment of contacts, friendships, and relations of esteem with famous people such as Pietro Mascagni, Giovanni Pascoli, and Giosue Carducci…

Fantasia op. 83 su “Cavalleria Rusticana”
P. Mascagni
This fantasy begins with the orchestral phrase from the opera’s finale (Largo e ritenuto), i.e. the theme of the “tragedy” interspersed by two cadenzas of the clarinet exploring its entire range. A short transition leads to the orchestral introduction (here entirely played by the piano), to “Il cavallo scalpita”. There follows the exposition and re-elaboration of the Siciliana “O Lola ch’hai di latti la camisa”, and the famous Intermezzo. Later comes the duet “Voi dovrete fare”, the romanza “Bada, Santuzza, schiavo non sono” with the clarinet’s virtuoso sextuplets, and the stornello “Fior di giaggiolo”, at first faithfully presented, and later varied by the clarinet. The piece closes with the clarinet’s brilliant semiquavers on “Viva il vino spumeggiante” presented by the piano and with a short stringendo coda.

Fantasia op. 171 su “Tosca”
Giacomo Puccini
Written a few months after Puccini opera’s premiere, the Fantasy begins with the sequence of dramatic chords derived from the orchestral prelude and connected with the figure of Scarpia, interspersed by two short cadenzas in piano leggero by the clarinet. After a short reminiscence of the cantabile “Qual occhio al mondo” (Act I), the famous clarinet solo in the romanza “E lucean le stelle” (Act III) is faithfully cited. It is later reproposed by the piano and adorned by virtuoso passages by the clarinet. At the piano, the introductory orchestral notes of Act III and of the Duetto “Trionfal, di nuova speme…” precede the faithful exposition of the cantabile “Qual occhio al mondo (Act I) by the clarinet. Once again, “Scarpia’s chords” introduce the theme of the two protagonist’s love, before the surprising entry of the playful theme of the sexton. The orchestral notes supporting the narrative of the killing “Lì presso luccicava una lama” (Act III) are entrusted to the piano as the background to the clarinet’s quick semiquavers. Similarly, the air “O dolci mani” is entrusted to the piano, and the ornaments above it to the clarinet. A quick and tragical coda closes the fantasy.


He graduated in Clarinet with top marks and honours at the Higher Institute for Musical Studies “V. Bellini” in Caltanissetta. Later, he attended several master courses: with Antony Pay at the “Accademia Chigiana” in Siena, obtaining a Diploma of Merit for “Clarinet and Chamber Music” course; with Alessandro Carbonare at the “Accademia di Santa Cecilia” in Rome. He also attended numerous courses for many schoolyears with Fabrizio Meloni and Calogero Palermo, as well as the “Musica Riva Festival” summer courses in Riva del Garda (TN). He attended many master courses given by the following maestros: G. Garbarino, C. Scarponi, A. Marriner (London Symphony Orchestra), E. M. Baroni (Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI).
He graduated “summa cum laude” in “Music Disciplines” at the University of Palermo with a research dissertation in ethnomusicology; again, with top marks and honours, he obtained the Second Level Academic Degree in Clarinet, with a dissertation on Brahms’ Sonatas op. 120. He examined in depth the theoretical aspects of teaching, obtaining a Second Level Academic Degree in Instrumental Teaching.
He was awarded at many national and international competitions, both as a soloist and in chamber music ensembles. He has an intense concert activity in various chamber music groups (duo with piano, with accordion, trio with flute and piano, trio with cello and piano, clarinet quartet, quintet with strings, wind quintet…). As the principal clarinetist of the “Orchestra Mediterranea di Clarinetti”, he recorded two albums of pieces for clarinet ensemble. As a soloist, he recorded two concert etudes by composer G. Testa. With the contemporary chamber music ensemble WADI, he recorded the album “Leiđarvìsir” with pieces performed and recorded in world premiere (W. Merz, G. Cangemi). Several young composers (C. Mantione, R. Cipollina) dedicated their new works to him, who premiered them. Since several years, he also dedicates himself to choral music and to ethnomusicological research, working on the preservation and the contextualized performance of songs and sounds from the indigenous musical tradition of Marianopoli (CL), a small and bright town in the Sicilian hinterland where he lives. He teaches clarinet at the middle school “F. Puglisi” in Serradifalco (CL).

Paola Gabriella Milazzo
She began her piano studies at a very young age at the Higher Institute for Musical Studies “V. Bellini” in Caltanissetta, where she graduated with top marks, under the guidance of M° Giuseppe Fagone, being awarded the scholarship offered by the Association A.E.D.E. as the best graduated of the year. In the same Institute, she later obtained the Second Level Academic Degree in Piano, with specialization in interpretation and performance, with top marks and honours. Her dissertation was titled “The Dawn of a New Language: Claude Debussy Between Suggestions and Evocations”.
As an active participant, she attended several master courses of piano interpretation, including those given by M° Bruno Canino, by M° José Candisano, by M° Lucia Passaglia, by M° Piotr Zukowski, by M° Irene Veneziano, by M° Giuseppe Andaloro, and by M° Vincenzo Balzani.
She undertook pedagogical studies obtaining the Second Level Academic Degree in Pedagogy with focus on middle school piano teaching at the Conservatory “G. B. Pergolesi” in Fermo, where she also obtained the TFA (Teacher Training Course).
Her career includes performances, both as a soloist and in chamber music ensembles, in several Italian cities and in many events organized by associations such as Agimus, Pro Loco, Orpheus, Crescendo, Fidapa, and the Direzione Regionale Musei Emilia-Romagna.
In March 2010 she obtained the first prize at the 6th European Contest of Musical Performance “Città Campobello di Licata” in the Chamber Music section.
In 2017 she took part as a pianist in the recording of an album about Psalms by Liszt, organized by the Conservatory “G. B. Pergolesi” in Fermo and by the Liszt Institute of Bologna. She dedicates herself to teaching since many years now. She began at the music school “Techné” in Caltanissetta, and later she taught at the Middle School in Fabriano. Currently she teaches piano at the Music High School “Manzoni-Juvara” in Caltanissetta, and she cooperates with the Higher Institute for Musical Studies “V. Bellini” in Caltanissetta as a piano teacher in the pre-academic courses.