Release date: 27 October 2023
FONTANESI: Organ Sonatas
In the realm of Italian music, where fresh, original organ pieces are comparatively few, it is noteworthy that composer David Fontanesi has dedicated not just one, but four Sonatas to this instrument. Written in 2021, these compositions exude an unexpected originality, even whilst they remain firmly grounded in the principles of contrapuntal composition and tonal harmonies.
As noted previously, these works are anchored in contrapuntal writing, or, more specifically, in the creation of fugue-like arrangements. Fontanesi frequently pays homage to the grand ‘father figure’ of this form, Bach, and occasionally reveals an affinity for the writing style of Reger.
Yet, these various fugues and sonata forms with counterpoint are far from mere stylistic exercises. Instead, they invariably aim to probe new harmonic landscapes, often marked by abrupt key transitions or layered contrapuntal structures. The compositions are punctuated with moments of striking inspiration, which are sure to delight listeners with unexpected twists and turns.
Sonata No. 1: The opening movement unfolds with two distinctive and evocative thematic concepts. The opening theme, presented as a fugue exposition paired with the pedalboard, conjures up both the tonality and character of the celebrated “thema regium” utilised by Bach in his Musical Offering. The second thematic grouping adopts a chordal and cantabile approach.
The second movement acts as a genuine meditation, imbued with the typical organ-like tones of Gamba and Voce Celeste. Anyone anticipating a tranquil and serene finale will be taken aback by an intriguing crescendo that brings this piece to a triumphant and optimistic close.
In contrast, the energetic third movement is unquiet and turbulent, seemingly shattering any semblance of peace and assurance so powerfully suggested in the second movement. Mirroring the first movement, this one also ends on bold and dramatic chords.
Sonata No. 2: The expressive ambience of the Second Sonata is entirely different. The opening movement has the feel of a symphonic Scherzo, featuring an imitative style, where the persistent and bouncing rhythm of quintuplets brings about a rather unique interplay of colours. It is in the style of a dance with moments of respite, thanks to the numerous progressions within.
The second movement, Molto Moderato, is sober and conveys a peaceful, gradually intensifying sonority, ultimately reaching a sombre and hefty forte.
The third movement revives the joyful atmosphere of the first movement. It takes on the form of a rondo with the classic ABACA structure. The central passages echo the contemplative mood of the fugue. However, in conclusion, the piece takes on a celebratory and dazzling character, amplified by the commanding use of the Trumpets or “chamade”.
Sonata No. 3: The Third Sonata commences with an expansive symphonic-style opening movement. The principal theme is a flowing cantabile, supported by a straightforward accompaniment. As the sixteenth-note movement of the accompaniment steadily gains autonomy, it evolves into a thematic element that is developed throughout the movement.
The central Adagio is strikingly beautiful. Echoing the concept of a theme with accompaniment, as seen in the first movement, the composer delivers a truly memorable lyrical moment. Despite the use of modal passages and sequences of major sevenths, the overall impression remains fresh and mesmerising to the ear.
The Sonata concludes with a fugue based on a characteristic theme of repeated notes. Following an initial exposition, where one might expect thematic cells to be developed, there is instead a firm harmonic shift (from D minor, the original tonality of the Fugue’s foundation, to G-flat major). In this new key, all thematic elements are employed and developed. Upon returning to the original key, rather than culminating in a crescendo of sound and emotion, the composition gradually diminishes, ending with an almost questioning air.
Sonata No. 4: In this fourth and final Sonata composed for the organ by Fontanesi, the first movement is also a freely contrapuntal fugato, bearing similarities to the first movement of the Second Sonata. A theme characterised by repeated octave leaps imparts both dynamism and tranquility to the piece.
The second movement could be described as a kind of multiple fugue. I venture to say it evokes the style of Buxtehude, albeit without the fantastical elements typical for this composer. The main theme is solemn, robust, and distinct, while subsequent themes become progressively more animated in both rhythm and composition.
The Sonata concludes on a high note, with a vibrant and virtuosic Toccata filled with joy, providing a compelling and impactful listening experience.
In conclusion, these four Sonatas should be viewed as a cohesive creative unit. I would recommend listening to them in succession. Listeners will not be disappointed, quite the opposite! Furthermore, the instrument utilised, the magnificent Tamburini-Bonato organ at the Duomo of Abano Terme, in the province of Padua, allows for the exploration of a nearly limitless palette of organ colours and, if you’ll excuse the comparison, even orchestral tones.
Andrea Albertin © 2023
Andrea Albertin’s musical education included graduations “cum laude” in organ and piano as well as composition and conducting studies at the Italian conservatories of Rovigo, Padua and Florence with the M°s Giovanni Feltrin, Paolo Ballarin, Wolfango Dalla Vecchia and Piero Bellugi.
The collaboration with important personalities of the music scene including Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Riccardo Muti, Gustav Kuhn, James Conlon, Daniel Oren, Renato Bruson and Giuseppe Giacomini inspired him artistically.
Andrea Albertin has had assignments as a pianist and opera coach at important international festivals and theaters: “La Scala” in Milan, “Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino”, “Teatro San Carlo” in Naples, “Teatro Petruzzelli” in Bari, “Teatro Perez Galdos” in Las Palmas, Budapest State Opera, “Teatro Sociale” in Rovigo, “Teatro Alighieri” in Ravenna, National Theatre of Tirana, “Tiroler Festspiele Erl”.
He has performed as conductor in various countries such as in the Italy, Czech Republic, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Albania, Romania, France, Russia, Ukraine, South Korea and China, and as conductor recording for broadcasters comprehending RAI, BBC3, ZDF, RNE (Spain), TVE (Spain), National Egypt TV, Ceská Televize (Czeck Rep.) and RTSH (Albania).
Andrea Albertin’s orchestras engagements have included Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra del Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Torino, Orchestra Sinfonica di San Remo, Orchestra Fondazione Teatro Petruzzelli di Bari, Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto, Orchestra del Teatro Verdi di Salerno, Orchestra of National Theatre of Cluj (Romania), Orchestra of National Theatre of Iasi (Romania), Cairo State Theatre Orchestra (Egypt), Tîrgu-Mures States Philharmonic Orchestra (Romania), Odessa Orchestra Theater, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre of Ostrava, Krimea Symphony Orchestra of Yalta, M. Jalil Tatar State Academic Orchestra of Kazan, Zhaparosnjie Symphony Orchestra, and Orkestra Simfonike of the Opera and Ballet Theatre of Tirana.
In the opera sector he conducted mainly Italian repertoire, but not exclusively, (53 Operas) and takes equal interest in the symphonic ambit (more then 350 symphoncs works).
He obtained a resounding success by directing "Un Ballo in Maschera" by G. Verdi at the National Theatre of Iasi (Romania). As a result of this the Romanian State Television broadcast the first recital with varied millions of viewers.
He has recently collaborated with M° Daniel Oren, preparing for him Otello by G. Verdi, at the Teatro Verdi in Trieste and Puccini’s Turandot at the Teatro Verdi in Salerno. He had a triumphant success conducting two New Year’s concerts at the Teatro Verdi in Salerno.
David Fontanesi: He holds a master in History of Medieval Philosophy at University of Padova. He has studied piano with Lucia Lusvardi Gallico and composition with Giorgio Colombo-Taccani and Stefano Chinca.
He continued his composition studies with Azio Corghi at Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena and with Mauro Bonifacio at Accademia Romanini in Brescia.
His chamber and symphonic works are published by Casa Musicale Sonzogno (Milan) and Da Vinci Publishing (Osaka). In 2014 he published the CD “Chamber Music with Flute”, in 2015 the CD “Intimate Chamber Music” and in 2017 “Orchestral Works” for the label Bongiovanni (Bologna). In 2018 he published the book “Preludi ad una metafisica della musica contemporanea” for Zecchini Editore.
In 2019 he published the CD “The Third Way – Chamber Music & Sonatas for Winds” for the label Da Vinci Classics.