Affresco Italiano: 19th Century Italian Music with Cello


  • Artist(s): Ludovica Rana, Maddalena Giacopuzzi
  • Composer(s): Ferruccio Busoni, Francesco Cilea, Giuseppe Martucci
  • EAN Code: 7.46160914527
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Cello, Piano
  • Period: Modern
  • Publication year: 2022
SKU: C00619 Category:

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The three composers whose works are recorded in this Da Vinci Classics album have much in common, but also many differences. The first obvious shared element is their nationality, since all three were born in Italy. They also belong in the same generation, with Busoni and Cilea sharing the very same birth year, whilst Martucci was ten years older. Thirdly, they are among the comparatively few Italian musicians of the time who left major and significant works for the cello, and in particular for cello and piano.
Yet, as said above, many differences counterbalance these similarities, and they should be clearly considered when listening to this fascinating musical itinerary. The most important question one should ask, with regard to these three composers, is what was their “core business”, in a manner of speaking. In Francesco Cilea’s case, the question is easily answered: though he wrote many musical works in numerous genres and was active in many music-related activities, today he is best remembered for his operatic output. His Adriana Lecouvreur, in particular, has stood the test of time and has been uninterruptedly performed on stages worldwide since the time of its composition.
The question is more complex to answer in the case of the other two musicians. Of course, if one were to apply the same criteria as Cilea’s to Busoni, the reply would be: “transcription”. Indeed, if one asks the average concertgoer as concerns what is Busoni remembered for, the normal answer will be “Bach transcriptions”. Of course, Busoni’s Bach transcriptions are among the most magnificent examples in the art of transcribing ever written. But Busoni would rightly feel slighted if one were to reduce his multifaceted genius to that of an arranger. He was one of the greatest piano virtuosi of all times; he had an extremely cultivated and brilliant mind; thanks to his linguistic skills and to his numerous places of residences, he befriended many of the greatest musicians and thinkers of the time; he could write deeply and fascinatingly about aesthetics and composition; he was a philosopher of music, teacher, and courageous organiser of musical and cultural initiatives. His own compositional output was his greatest pride and joy, although it failed to attract all the attention it deserved at Busoni’s time. This was Busoni’s great wound, but did not prevent him from creating a vast oeuvre ranging from opera to instrumental music to religiously inspired works.
Virtuosity and internationality also characterise the life of Giuseppe Martucci, whose beginnings in the musical world were those of a child prodigy at the piano. In Naples, near to which he had been born, he attended the local Conservatory (which was, and still is, one of the most important musical centres in Italy), but was soon withdrawn by his father who (similar, indeed, to Busoni’s own father) wished to display his talent on the international stage. After some years as a touring virtuoso, Martucci seemingly settled for a less demanding lifestyle, but actually found his true vocation in so doing. He became one of the leading figures in the Italian renaissance of instrumental music, promoting it in a number of ways: through his activity as a conductor of repute, who was not afraid of championing the works by Bach at a time when their performance was exceptional or unique; as a distinguished teacher; as the Director of several of the most important Italian Conservatories (in Bologna, he paved the way for Busoni’s own directorship); and, of course, as a composer of genius in his own right.
In spite of these differences, these three composers were clearly unafraid of going against the tide, or rather to seek and promote a new insight on music in their homeland. For the entire nineteenth century, Italy had been musically (and not just musically!) dominated by opera. And whilst these composers were absolutely not against opera, they also understood that instrumental music (and particularly chamber music) could find an Italian language of its own, rather than merely representing a “translation” of an imported, foreign style. This was particularly important at a time when Italy, as a nation, was still extremely young (it was “born” exactly in between the birth dates of our composers, in 1861), and was far from obtaining all lands it claimed as its own (World War I would be fought with this goal in mind). Thus, an artistic “product” which was felt as foreign, as alien, as non-indigenous, was doomed to unsuccess from the outset. It was necessary to find a genuinely Italian vein for chamber music.
And the cello was the ideal torchbearer for this cultural programme. It is unanimously acknowledged that the cello is the musical instrument which most closely resembles the human voice, in its warm timbre, expressivity, ductility and variety. A people enamoured with opera could easily recognise itself in the singing tones of the cello. And this was precisely what these three composers intuited, and fully realised, with these three magnificent works.
As said above, Busoni would likely have taken offense had his creative activity been simply reduced to that of a (Bach) transcriber. Yet, he could not (and certainly would not) have denied that Bach was and had always been a source of great inspiration for him. Written (as the other works in this album) by a composer in his twenties, it clearly shows Busoni’s admiration for the Baroque master and his thorough knowledge of Bach’s output and compositional techniques. Busoni did not intend to write a fake Baroque suite, but yet comes close to this; the composer never hides his own style and its fascinating modernity, but without seeking it for its own sake. Behind the movements’ titles and features, those of their Baroque ancestors are clearly discernible: the spirited traits of a courante are glimpsed behind the features of the opening Moderato ma energico. A style reminiscent of Bach’s most touching and inspired Arias is found in the graceful and light Andantino con grazia, whilst the model for the following Mässig, doch frisch may be found in some of the most capricious and fanciful suite movements in the Baroque master’s output. The more serious, composed, expressive and lyrical tone of the Sostenuto is clearly derived from Baroque Sarabandes, which powerfully appealed to Busoni’s innate sense of elegance and refinement. The concluding Moderato ma con brio may seem, at first sight, to break with the Baroque model and to look back to a more recent, Romantic past, as might be embodied by Schumann’s masterful treatment of the cello and piano duo. Yet, Schumann was one of the greatest admirers of Bach’s music in his time, and was one of the protagonists of the Bach reception in the first half of the nineteenth century. In a manner of speaking, then, this last movement of Busoni’s Kleine Suite can be said to represent “Bach as seen by Schumann”, or “Bach through the lens of Schumann”.
The love for Bach was shared by the teachers with whom Cilea studied in Naples, where he was taught by Paolo Serrao, and by Beniamino Cesi, one of the first Italian editors of Bach. Both had also been Martucci’s teachers, respectively of composition and piano. The cantabile style which would lead Cilea to immortal fame as an operatic composer finds an ideal outlet in this impressively precocious Sonata. This large-scale, ambitious work of a still very young composer opens with a notable spontaneity, and demonstrates the musician’s firm grip on the secrets of the Sonata form. The lyrical vein of the composer is abundantly effused in the touching second movement, characterised by a sombre but enchanted atmosphere, framing a central section characterised by a more animated style.
The “Romantic” soul of the composer, however, is by no means his only expressive tool: the last movement, perhaps the most forward-looking of the three, seems to go beyond the boundaries of Romantic expressiveness, and to suggest, in its sound and language, the novelties of the French impressionism. A remarkable trait of this compelling Sonata, furthermore, is Cilea’s robust handling of the delicate balance between the two instruments.
A comparable skill is demonstrated by Martucci, who adopted a very traditional form for his own Sonata, but, at the same time, affirmed his individuality and personality in a highly convincing fashion. In particular, the cello’s singing voice encouraged Martucci (as Cilea) to experiment with the “accompanying” harmony, and to explore some uncommon venues of the tonal language. Martucci’s own career as a piano virtuoso clearly influences the highly demanding scoring of the piano part, but this never suffocates the spontaneity of the cello’s scoring. This is evidently shown in the first movement, where the cello expresses both its fiery personality and its tenderness in the juxtaposition of the two themes of the Sonata forms. The Scherzo manages to combine a Beethovenian, or Brahmsian, vitality and rhythmic elan, with an inspiration which clearly reveals Martucci’s Neapolitan origins (particularly in the Trio). The short slow movement is inspired by a tender sadness, which is quickly dispelled by the enthralling Finale, with its whirlwind of technical prowess and musical frenzy.
Together, these three works and their composers bear an eloquent witness to the vitality and freshness of the Italian cello repertoire at the fin de siècle, and invite us to the rediscovery of this rarely performed repertoire.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2022


Ludovica Rana 
Born in 1995 into a family of musicians, Ludovica started her career playing in important concert season such as the Società dei Concerti in Milan, Musica Insieme in Bologna, Cremona Mondo Musica, Musica Pura in Pordenone, Ritratti Festival in Monopoli, Fazioli Concert Hall, Messina Philharmonic Academy, Varignana Music Festival, I Concerti del Quirinale, Villa Solomei Festival, Classiche Forme Festival. There are also numerous collaborations in the area of Chamber Music, including those with her sister Beatrice Rana, Enrico Bronzi, Enrico Dindo, Pablo Ferràndez, Giovanni Sollima, Bruno Giuranna, Oleg Kaskiv, Francesco Libetta, Massimo Quarta, Danilo Rossi, Alessandro Taverna, Pavel Vernikov. She won prestigious competitions such as the 30th "Mario Benvenuti" Rassegna Nazionale in Vittorio Veneto, the "The Note Zagreb" Prize at the IX International Competition for young cellists "Antonio Janigro" in Croatia; in 2016 the First Prize at the International Music Competition "Vienna" Grand Prize Virtuoso and the "Young Virtuoso Award" at the 1th Manhattan International Music Competition in New York. In 2014 she won the 1st prize of the Special Section of the “Francesco Geminiani Prize” receiving the cello of Maestro Giovanni Lazzaro (Padua 2011) called "Furibondo"  for two years. Graduated in Cello in 2014 with full marks and laude at the "G. Paisiello" Music Institute in Taranto, Ludovica also studied with Enrico Dindo at the Pavia Cello Academy and at the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana. In 2020 she graduated with full marks and laude with M ° Giovanni Sollima, in the Specialization Course in Cello at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Also at the same Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia she obtains her diploma with full marks in the Advanced Chamber Music Course with Carlo Fabiano.
She teaches Chamber Music at Conservatorio “N. Piccinni” in Bari. Artistic Secretary of Classiche Forme-International Chamber Music Festival, since 2018 she is Artistic Director of the Sfere Sonore Concert Season in her city of Arnesano (Le), of the Chroma Season of the Koreja Theater of Lecce and of the Arnesano School of Strings Sistema Musica. She plays a Claude Augustin Miremont from 1870.

Maddalena Giacopuzzi has distinguished herself in the musical overview by winning the important Prizes in several National and International Competitions: in 2016 she won the Third Prize at the Rina Sala Gallo Piano Competition in Monza and in 2015 she won the First Prize at the 53rd “A. Speranza” International Piano Competition in Taranto and at the 6th Massarosa International Piano Competition. She was selected to take part to the final rounds of the Montreal International Competition in 2017, the Cleveland International Piano Competition in 2016, the Busoni Piano Competition 2017. She has performed as soloist with the Orchestra of the Arena in Verona, Orchestra Monteverdi of Bozen, the Haydn Orchestra of Trento and Bozen, the Orchestra Verdi of Milan, the Orchestra of Sanremo, Orquestra Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico under the baton of Berislav Sipus, Emir Saul, Stephen Lloyd, Carlo Tenan, Giancarlo de Lorenzo and Gabriela Diaz Alatriste. Maddalena Giacopuzzi was born in Verona in 1991. She began studying piano at the age of 5 years with Prof. Laura Palmieri and Prof. Ida Tizzani. She received the diploma at the Conservatory “E. F. Dall’Abaco” in Verona under the guidance of M ° Adriano Ambrosini and in April 2014 she graduated with the Master Degree with full marks, laude and a mention of honour at the Conservatorio “C. Monteverdi” in Bolzano, where she studied with M° Cristiano Burato. During the years 2010-2015 she attended the Accademia “Incontri col Maestro” in Imola where she studied with M° Leonid Margarius. In 2017 she completed the Artist Diploma at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Roma, with M° Benedetto Lupo, receiving a scolarship offered by the Association Settimane al Teatro Olimpico. She was also named Fellow of the prestigious 2017 Music Academy Of The West in Santa Barbara, California, having the opportunity to perform, work, and collaborate with Guest Artists like Jeremy Denk, Jerome Lowenthal, Conor Hanick, Robert Mc Donald, Stephen Hough. Maddalena Giacopuzzi dedicates an important part of her musical activity to chamber music: she completed the Artist Diploma with a specialization in Chamber Music at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, where she studied with M° Carlo Fabiano.


Ferruccio Busoni: (b Empoli, 1 April 1866; d Berlin, 27 July 1924). Italian composer and pianist, active chiefly in Austria and Germany. Much to his detriment as composer and aesthetician, he was lionized as a keyboard virtuoso. The focus of his interests as a performer lay in Bach, Mozart and Liszt, while he deplored Wagner. Rejecting atonality and advocating in its place a Janus-faced ‘Junge Klassizität’, he anticipated many later developments in the 20th century. His interests ranged from Amerindian folk music and Gregorian chant to new scales and microtones, from Cervantes and E.T.A. Hoffmann to Proust and Rilke. Only gradually, during the final decades of the 20th century, has his significance as a creative artist become fully apparent.

Francesco Cilea: (b Palmi, Reggio Calabria, 23 July 1866; dVarazze, nr Savona, 20 Nov 1950). Italian composer and teacher. The son of a prominent lawyer, he was intended by his father for the same profession; however, the influence of Francesco Florimo, the famous archivist and friend of Bellini, procured him entry to the Naples Conservatory in 1879, where his teachers included Paolo Serrao, Beniamino Cesi and Giuseppe Martucci, and his fellow pupil Umberto Giordano. There he made rapid progress, becoming a maestrino in 1885. His Suite for orchestra (1887) was awarded a government prize and on 9 February 1889, his final year, his opera Gina was performed at the conservatory. Despite a poor libretto the editor Sonzogno thought sufficiently well of it to commission from him an opera on a fashionable low-life subject. La tilda was given with moderate successs at the Teatro Pagliano, Florence, with Rodolfo Ferrari as conductor and with Fanny Torresani in the title role. Sonzogno included it in his Italian opera season mounted later that year in Vienna, where it earned the gratifying approval of Hanslick. Cilea spent three years on the composition of his next opera, L’arlesiana, to a libretto based on Alphonse Daudet’s play, for which Bizet had supplied incidental music. The text of Rosa Mamai’s aria (‘Esser madre è un inferno’) was provided by Grazia Pierantoni, the wife of the senator in whose house Cilea was staying at the time. The opera was well received at its première at Sonzogno’s Teatro Lirico, Milan, where it helped to launch Caruso on his international career. Not until the following year, however, did L’arlesiana achieve its definitive three-act form.

In 1900 Cilea began work on his most famous opera, Adriana Lecouvreur, whose subject appealed to him because of its 18th-century ambience and its mixture of comedy and pathos. The première proved another triumph for Caruso as well as for the composer. At a season of operas mounted by Sonzogno at the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt, Paris, in 1904, Alfred Bruneau singled out Adriana Lecouvreur as the worthiest product of the Italian ‘giovane scuola’. A projected collaboration with Gabriele D’Annunzio on Francesca da Rimini came to nothing owing to Sonzogno’s unwillingness to meet the poet’s financial demands. In his search for a subject that would offer a choral dimension Cilea turned to Gloria, a story of star-crossed lovers set in 14th-century Siena at the time of the siege. Despite the advocacy of Toscanini the opera was cooly received and failed to circulate; nor did a revised version of 1932 to a new text by Ettore Moschini fare substantially better. A last operatic attempt,Ritorno ad amore, foundered on Renato Simoni’s failure to complete the libretto. From then on Cilea ceased to compose for the stage. His only other large-scale work was the ‘Poema sinfonico’ Il canto della vita for tenor, chorus and orchestra, written to a text by Sem Benelli in commemoration of the Verdi centenary in 1913. The previous year Leopoldo Mugnone had conducted a revival of L’arlesianain Naples, for which he had persuaded the composer to enlarge the part of Vivetta and cut the aria of Rosa Mamai and her scene with L’Innocente. The result so disappointed Cilea that he withdrew the score from circulation for the next 20 years. It was not heard again until a radio transmission in 1932. The Museo Cilea in Palmi contains the manuscript of an unpublished ‘Intermezzo arlesiana’ dated 1938.

Until his retirement in 1935 Cilea pursued a distinguished career in musical education. He taught harmony and the piano at the Naples Conservatory from (1890–92), and held the chair of harmony and composition at the Istituto Reale (later the Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini) in Florence (1896–1904). In 1913 he assumed the directorship of the Palermo Conservatory, moving to that of the Naples Conservatory, a post which he held for nearly 20 years. He was elected to the Academy in 1938. Though justifiably proud of his record as a teacher, he regarded it as secondary to his operatic career, which he believed to have been blighted by the intrigues of others.

More of an all-round musician than most of his colleagues of the ‘giovane scuola’, Cilea shows a lighter touch. Besides Bellini, his chief gods were Bach, Beethoven and Chopin. An accomplished pianist, his keyboard writing is always inventive, and several of his pieces composed between the wars show an attempt to come to grips with the styles of Ravel and Casella. If his operas conform to the manner of Mascagni and his school, they never descend to brutal excess. Thematic recurrence plays an important part in them, even though the motifs themselves are rarely very theatrical. If Adriana Lecouvreur remains his most popular opera, largely due to its appeal to the aging prima donna, his best-loved single aria is the ‘Lamento di Federico’ from L’arlesiana, to this day one of the gems of the tenor repertory.

From The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians

Giuseppe Martucci: (b Capua, 6 Jan 1856; d Naples, 1 June 1909). Italian composer, pianist and conductor. He was the most important non-operatic composer in late 19th-century Italy and played a versatile, highly influential part in the resurgence of Italian concert life after a period when it had been at a low ebb.