5 NOCTURNAL TALES, Op. 39
This cycle of Five Nocturnal Tales Op. 39 dates back entirely to 2021, even though a draft of the first of them was conceived much earlier. It is a collection of middle-sized pieces, substantially Nocturnes, dedicated to Night. They all share the ABA structure, whereby the central B episode is mainly bound to the principal thematic section (through derivation, variation, etc.). Each is dedicated to a musician friend.
The first has as its subtitle “Nocturnal Animals”. It is a dark, sinister, estranging piece; it would like to be vaguely esoteric, arcane, alienating. It is entirely founded on the hypnotic, obstinate and obsessive repetition of the central C throughout the piece. This feature calls to the mind other, more famous examples, such as Fryderyk Chopin’s celebrated Prelude Op. 28 No. 15, or Le Gibet, the second movement of Maurice Ravel’s masterpiece, Gaspard de la Nuit. The fixity of the continually repeated C, in the blocked and motionless sea of night, is broken by rapid figurations which allude to the sounds of strange and fantastic night animals, as recalled by the subtitle. It is a piece made out of almost nothing, mainly built on effects, and entirely played on timbre and dynamics, moving within a very limited range of piano and pianissimo.
The second Nocturnal Tale is a mysterious piece. It is rather similar to the first as concerns its atmospheres, with a narrative and discursive character. It moves between an initial theme, entirely built on intervals of fourth, and a more “aerial” theme; both, however, share the use of similar figurations.
In the third, whose structure is a typical ABA’, a lyrical and suspended principal theme is juxtaposed to a central episode, initially whispered and agitated, which becomes increasingly disquieted until it reaches a climax. Here, amidst the dotted figurations, the initial theme is found again, but transfigured by the movement of the underlying quadruplets; it gradually fades and dissolves itself slowly. Finally, the principal theme returns, varied; musical matter piles up until the second and last climax, progressively extinguishing itself until the last concluding chords.
The fourth possibly is, together with the fifth, the most lyrical of the cycle. Over a carpet of quadruplets, a nostalgic theme (which however contains some vital elan) is presented. The central section is born out of a fragment from the principal theme, the one with dotted rhythm. The musical discourse gets thicker and thicker, characterized by a dense polyphony, until it reaches a climax, after which the storm subsides and the principal theme comes back, intertwined with secondary voices displaying themselves over an accompaniment which is richer in comparison with the beginning.
Finally, the fifth Nocturnal Tale, dedicated to Tania Cardillo who performs in this CD, is a very meditative piece. It is possibly the most “nocturnal” of the five, always surrounding the principal thematic cell, constituted by an ascending and descending octave in a dotted rhythm. It is purposefully obsessive and repeated, with a central section with a quicker pace until a stormy climax is reached. There are moments with a shameless lyricism, but my intention was to close this cycle with something amplifying what is “underground” in the other pieces, with the exception of the fourth which is rather close to the fifth.
10 EPIGRAMMI, Op. 21
The cycle of ten Epigrammi Op. 21 for the piano was born within a rather long timespan, between 2019 and 2021. The pieces have not been written consecutively; indeed, the collection underwent a period of compositional pause, and was completed on several occasions. In spite of this, as concerns both style and language the cycle is linguistically homogenous and with an internal consistency of its own.
The fantastic dimension, in its almost fairytale-style declination, as was employed also in other cycles such as the Bagatelle and the Nocturnal Tales, here appears as one of the privileged pathways to a more personal language in comparison with the preceding Preludes, even though we always remain within the boundaries of tonality and of a traditional language.
The first Epigramma is virtuosic and tumultuous. It introduces the cycle in medias res and describes, in its own fashion, the character of the entire collection, whereby the fantastic element reigns but within recognizable formal structures. It is a stormy and wild piece, where one can find connections with the music by Sergey Prokofiev and the early twentieth century in Italy.
The second is a kind of a melancholic Barcarole, estranging and rather alienated. It is a moonlit tale, nostalgic after the agitated preceding Epigramma. Though it is not made explicit, its subtitle could be “Sea Nocturne”, thanks to its pastel-like and delicate colours. It is a quiet and meditative piece, a kind of a Barcarole, uncertain and confused.
The third Epigramma is an estranging Berceuse. It should somehow represent a quiet lake whence at times some fantastic creatures spring out; they are depicted by the irregular turns punctuating the entire piece. It is one of the most lunar and suspended pieces in the collection; it is a piece made of little matter (a simple theme alternating with vaguely dissonant arabesques in the right hand, over an almost ostinato pattern in the left hand). The main thematic fragment is alternating with arabesque-like figurations, vaguely hallucinatory, over a carpet of sounds which is constantly repeated.
The fourth Epigramma is a very short piece, daredevil and virtuoso in character, entirely built around a single thematic cell presented at the beginning. It is almost a small firework springing out, passing through contrapuntal moments and others with the superimposition of several sound layers, and finished by a concluding explosion.
The fifth is substantially a Barcarolle with an initially impalpable, ethereal, and nocturnal character, which increasingly thickens by the superimposition of melodic lines, until it fades in the finale. It is a substantially lyrical piece, a fairytale of kind, in line with the cycle’s programmatic intention, with a uniform and constant pace proceeding by the progressive accumulation of thematic material, which is gradually superimposed until it created, by the end, a thick polyphony.
Since its very subtitle, Vision diabolique – Omaggio a S. Prokofiev, the sixth Epigramma reveals its purpose, i.e. to pay homage to the music to the great Russian composer – whose spirit is found throughout the pieces of this collection. A piece very different from the preceding, this one is a kind of grotesque divertimento “à la manière de”, a short frantic horserace between sudden explosions and lightning appearing on the tip of the pianist’s fingers.
The seventh is a Siciliana, with the character of a moderately moving dance. It begins by a harmonically uncertain and wavy thematic line, which thickens increasingly until it reaches two climaxes, but always turning around the main chordal sequence, until it dissolves by restating the initial, simple thematic line, but, as it were, in an interrupted and stumbling fashion. The seeming initial simplicity gets harsher in the Development, where the theme is submerged by the magma of the surrounding figurations, and remains entangled as in a mangrove forest.
The eighth Epigramma is a kind of an obsessive tarantella, flowing and slightly panting, all built on the opposition major/minor mode, and on a triplet made of a second interval followed by a fifth, at times ascending, at times descending. Occasionally one can notice references to Sergey Rachmaninov’s Etudes-Tableaux.
I gave the subtitle of “Meditazione” to the ninth, due to its slow, constant, and thoughtful pace. It is nothing else than a lyrical harmonic excursion of the initial thematic cell, which is gradually enriched by new details and flourishes. It is perhaps the most suspended and narrative piece of the entire cycle. Should I find a reference model inspiring this piece, I would probably think of Samuel Barber, a composer I love deeply, and who, in the pieces I wrote lastly, is perhaps more present than others.
The tenth and last Epigramma, completing the cycle, is a short, unchained and slightly mocking piece in 3/8, alternating two melodic fragments: the first is dryer and harsher, the second more flowing, and, curiously, with the flavour of an English dance. It should give the feeling of a flash which, after a few bursts, seems to disappear and later to explode again at the very last bar.
FANTASIA E FUGA SUL NOME “GADE”
This is a rather youthful piece, which I wrote in the manner of an exercise in style. It is clearly and explicitly inspired by César Franck’s masterpiece, the Prélude, Chorale et Fugue, as is indicated in its very subtitle. It is certainly a structurally and technically complex piece; when I wrote it, I was looking at tradition as to a lighthouse and a model whence I could start for later developing more personal ideas of my own.
The Fantasy is made of two episodes alternating twice; the first exposes the theme on the four notes G-A-D-E, and the second slower and more chorale-like, up to the theme’s reprise in a final peroration dissolving into a pianissimo. A long Fugue follows, whose subject is again founded on the four notes G-A-D-E. It proceeds by accumulation of elements and by thickening of the textures in three different episodes, firstly by triplets and then by quadruplets. Other elements of the Fantasia are also restated, such as the theme of the second episode – although it is transfigured, by agitating and accelerating more and more, until it explodes in a maestoso closing which is more reminiscent of Ferruccio Busoni than of Franck.
Luca Moscardi © 2022
TANIA CARDILLO Born in Catania, Italy. At a young age, she approaches music thanks to her maternal grandmother, Maria Teresa Baldeschi, who was a student of Alfredo Casella.
Later, she studied with Alberto Maria Giambello and she graduated, followed by Stefano Mancuso, at the Sassari Conservatory. She attended master classes with internationally renowned musicians: Sergei Dorensky, Mario Delli Ponti, Angelo Persichilli and Fausto Zadra who gave a decisive imprint on her artistic growth.
She was awarded in several national and international competitions. In 2002, she received the “Accompanist special mention” at the Ibla Grand Prize Competition. She has published revisions, arrangements and a CD with the Fenilya Trio, by Edizioni Musicali Novecento. She currently performs for various European and Italian concert institutions, both in a solo and chamber role.