Carlo Alessandro Landini
The two Sonatas for Cello and Piano
Carlo Alessandro Landini is an extraordinary character whom I am proud to call a friend: a person with an extremely vast culture and interests, obviously not limited to music alone, but to science, literature and figurative arts, a torrential writer and essayist albeit very pleasant to read, with a rare sense of humour and self-irony and with the compositional skills to win the first prize at the Lutosławski competition in Warsaw in 2007.
He is often unjustly identified as the «composer with a Guinness World record» due to his huge Piano Sonata No. 5, written between 2012 and 2015, whose score consists of 653 pages and a variable duration of up to 6 hours, the longest in the history of music. Nevertheless, Landini is also a Maestro of short forms, here (in my humble opinion) you can find some of the highest gems of his production: listen for example to the motet Dona nobis pacem of 2022.
The Sonatas for Cello and Piano are two monumental works that require performers able to withstand the extraordinary temporal dimensions of the movements, closer to a Symphony than to a Sonata and the extremely long expressive spans of melodic lines which are always passionate and dramatic, both in the slow and fast movements.
The two Sonatas are symmetrical both in size and in general structure, since they both consist of two movements, the first slow and the second fast. These works are written mainly using the octatonic scale, formed by the constant sequence of tone and semitone, already used by Chopin in the finale of his Sonata Op. 69 and by composers of late Romanticism, a scale which became structural thanks to Russian composers such as Stravinsky and Soviet composers such as Prokof’ev or Shostakovich.
Sonata No. 1. The First movement, («Adagio»), is an unceasing sequence of quarter notes of the Piano on which a very long cello melody unfolds based precisely on the octatonic scale. This scale is also used in the Piano part to relate the sequence of the tonal harmonies. The Piano sequence is then added to other contrasting rhythms, without however losing the endless pace that unifies the entire movement. A long glissando of the Cello towards the upper register closes the movement on a D minor chord, paralleled with the Piano rumbling in its lower register.
The Second movement («Presto») uses the same octatonic scale in a continuous game of imitations of small thematic cells equally distributed between Piano and Cello with a much faster metronome, and with accumulating and progressive tension. Towards the end, the imitative game thins out and then thickens once more until the unison with which the movement ends.
Sonata No. 2. The Second Sonata temporarily abandons the octatonic scale, in place of which we find greater freedom in the use of tonal, chromatic or sometimes modal fragments. Here, we also encounter two long movements, of which the first («Liberamente il tempo, quasi improvvisando», i.e. «Free tempo, almost improvising») is characterized by the Piano’s calm pace and the Cello’s passionate melody often used in the upper register. A C sharp minor triad opens and concludes the first movement of this Sonata.
The Second movement («Mosso, sempre scorrevole», i.e. «Animated, always flowing») resumes the quick, imitative game between Piano and Cello of the Sonata No. 1. The exclusive use of the octatonic scale also returns, with the addition of greater rhythmic complexity and consequently a greater virtuosity by the Cello, steered into the high and upper register. The Piano part also becomes increasingly dense and complex during the course of the piece up to last, assertive unison which, with its harsh, rhythmic connotation, concludes this Sonata.
Marco Decimo © 2023
Translation: Allison Turner
Between Hypnosis and Meditation
Carlo Alessandro Landini’s Sonatas for Cello and Piano indeed capture the listener – daring here a metaphor taken from cinema – in virtue of a lengthy, extenuating sequence shot. You wouldn’t want to turn your sights elsewhere, nor would you come up to the resolving event, or to the main character’s line, as quickly as you would like to. We track down the slow unfolding of the instrumental plot exactly as we would keep abreast with the smallest detail framed out by the camera. Without cuts nor keenness to know.
This way to proceed might appear somewhat outdated in relation to whatsoever contemporary musical production (not only mass production but sometimes also that of a selected, high-brow repertoire) stubbornly hunting for brevity and for an increase of auditory signals. Craft work, especially. Counterpoint and imitational procedures are the living matter of a never-ending flow, a sort of relentless process which unfolds and replicates itself by gradually introducing the listener to a dimension which is half way between hypnosis and meditation.
The solemnity with which every element of the score is articulated comes together with a palette of mystical and iridescent shades, those of the octatonic scale, embodying the ecstatic reminiscence of Olivier Messiaen’s music. Both the reasoned choice of gestures and melodic structures – devoid of all kind of frills and useless tinsels – and the almost sentient dialogue between the two instruments, a dialogue in constant evolution, ask (gently!) the performers to set aside their ego by reason of an increased attention to the sounding event itself.
One almost gets the impression that the composer himself is withdrawing, at first glance becoming a listener of his own music, then slowly turning into a herald of some message coming from afar, maybe from sidereal distances: still an objective one, yet drenched in human passions.
Landini’s music outlines what seems to be the ultimate, eschatological dimension of the musician’s task, that of questioning the Absolute to unravel its infinite response.
Luca Benatti © 2023
Translation: Lynn Marie Becker
Giovanni Capatti, Piano
Giovanni Capatti began playing the piano at the age of eight and graduated in 2009 under the guidance of Enrica Ronchi, to then pursue his studies with the late Francesco Conti. He attended courses held by renowned pianists such as Fou Ts’ong, Boris Berman, Massimiliano Damerini, Andrea Lucchesini, Peter Nelson, performing in numerous concerts – both as soloist and in various chamber ensembles as the «Uri Cain Ensemble». This included the Municipal Theater of Piacenza, the «Auditorium Cesare Pollini» in Padua, the Auditorium «Claudio Monteverdi» in Mantua, the historical «Pietro Da Cemmo Hall» in Brescia, the «Sala Puccini» in Milan, the «Tonhalle» in Zürich, the «Bijloke Music Center» in Gand, and the renowned «Konzerthaus» in Berlin. He remarkably stood out in the XXIV edition of the Cagliari-based «Ennio Porrino» International Competition (2015). Along with the study of the piano, Mr. Capatti attended the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Polytechnic University in Milan, there obtaining a Ph.D. in 2008. In 2017, Mr. Capatti started a Duo («Merum») with the violist Priscilla Panzeri. Together they recorded the first Italian performance of the Impromptu for viola and piano by the Viennese composer Hans Gál.
Guido Parma, Cello
The Milan-based cellist Guido Parma studied under the guidance of Alfredo Riccardi, then perfecting himself with Enrico Dindo, Marco Scano and Mario Brunello. He deepened the Brahmsian repertoire with Mihai Dancila, also collaborating with major Italian orchestras (RAI, Angelicum, Bergamo and Brescia, Como). From 1995 to 1998 he held the role of the first chair of the OUC of Milan, while carrying out prestigious tours in European countries, including Canada and the Far East. From 2000 to 2003 he took part in the Master Classes held by Rocco Filippini and Bruno Canino in Fiesole and Città di Castello. Winner of national and international competitions in trio and instrumental duo formations, Guido Parma is the cellist of the renowned «Trio di Milano», to which music critics have on several occasions bestowed enthusiastic praise. On faculty in the summer courses at the «Accademia del Lago Maggiore» in Verbania and Pallanza, Mr. Parma was directed by prestigious personalities such as Barsaj, Zagrosek, Delman, Taverna, and Maag. On several occasions he acted as a jury member of the «Città di Stresa» International Competition. He also performed together with outstanding soloists such as Antonio Ballista, Bruno Canino, Rocco Filippini. «Mr. Parma combines punctuality and flair effortlessly to create a seamless performance – so the Annuario Cidim –; this allows him to enhance certain apparently minor details of the score that make his performances always of great interest and, at times, amiably surprising».
Mr. Parma plays a Carlo Antonio Testore cello from the year 1732.
Carlo Alessandro Landini. He studied Piano and Composition at the Conservatory of Milan and the «Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique» in Paris.
He took advanced courses with Olivier Messiaen, Franco Donatoni, György Ligeti, Iannis Xenakis and Witold Lutosławski and was a recipient of the prestigious «Fulbright Award» to study and teach at the University of California San Diego.
Winner of national and international awards («Valentino Bucchi» in Rome, «Ennio Porrino» in Cagliari, «Ernest Bloch» in Lugano and «W. Serocki» in Warsaw), from 1978 to 1996 Landini attended Darmstadt’s «Ferienkurse für Neue Musik», undeniably a must for a musician of his generation.
His works are published by Sonzogno, Alphonse Leduc and Da Vinci Edition. With 12 monographic and anthological CDs under his belt, in March 2003 he was named «Fellow» of the Italian Academy in New York and «Associate Research Scientist» of the Music Department at New York’s Columbia.
Landini taught seminars and Masterclasses at the University of California, Columbia’s Department of Graduate Studies, the «Eastman School of Music» in Rochester, Buffalo State University, the Musikhochschule in Trossingen (Germany) and the University of Prague.
In 2008, he was the first and only Italian ever to win the Warsaw-based, world-renowned «W. Lutosławski Competition» with Le retour d’Astrée for violin and piano. In 2013 Landini was the only composer selected by ISCM to represent Italy at the 2013 World Music Days in Vienna¬-Bratislava.