Luigi Perrachio (1883-1966) and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) were both part of the flowering of Italian instrumental music in the first decades of the twentieth century. Perrachio was born in Turin, and spent his life in that city, performing as a pianist, composing, organizing concerts, and incorporating Piedmontese folk elements in his music. Castelnuovo-Tedesco was born in Florence, and also performed as a pianist; his music is suffused with a broad range of Italian popular influences, especially Tuscan. In 1938, he was forced to leave Italy as a result of Mussolini’s anti-Jewish laws, and he settled in the United States, where he became an important teacher to composers, including John Williams and André Previn. The musicologist Guido Gatti (1892-1973), who promoted both Perrachio and Castelnuovo-Tedesco in his prolific writings on Italian music of the period, writes of the effects of the upheaval of the first World War on music in Europe, and notes that Italian composers, by-and-large, resisted atonality and wrote music that was more accessible and attractive than many of their European contemporaries (Musical Quarterly, July 1932). Perrachio and Castelnuovo-Tedesco both composed music that never strays far from tonal norms and adheres to classical structures. They also share a love of the music of Bach and exhibit a strong sense of counterpoint in their writing, which is especially evident in the quintets presented here.
Perrachio, while influential as a teacher and performer (he was on the faculty of the Conservatory in Turin from 1925 until 1955), published relatively little, although he composed prolifically. As a result, his music is largely unknown today, even in his native Turin. Although he ultimately received a composition degree from the conservatory in Bologna in 1913, he was largely self-taught. Before his conservatory education, he had spent time in Vienna and Paris, absorbing the musical cultures of both cities. In particular, he fell in love with the music of Debussy, and spent time with Ravel and the pianist Ricardo Viñes, among other figures.
I initially discovered Perrachio via his impressionistic Nove Poemetti (1917-1920) for piano, a collection that I recorded in 2018. Guido Gatti wrote an enthusiastic essay on Perrachio in 1918, admitting that it is unusual to profile a composer who has published almost nothing. The Quintet was composed in 1919 and dedicated to Gatti; it remained unpublished. In 2019, I had the opportunity to examine and make a photograph of the manuscript, which is housed in the library of the Conservatory in Turin along with other papers donated by Perrachio’s son. The Quintet was published under my supervision by DaVinci Press in 2022. Bringing this music to life for the first time since its premiere has been a privilege.
The first movement is immense and powerful. Here, Perrachio moves away from the language of Debussy and Ravel that so strongly influenced the Poemetti, and into the more muscular and neoclassical language that was to dominate much of his composition in the 1920s and 1930s. (Listen to his 25 Preludi for piano, composed in 1927, to get the idea.) The turbulent and dramatic first theme is played by the strings in unison, accompanied by tempestuous piano figuration. The simple and spare second theme is first presented by the piano, and then expanded on by the strings in a richly harmonized choir. The extensive development builds to an immense climax, and then moves into a moment of stillness that shows Perrachio’s imaginative use of orchestration and color. The first theme returns emphatically, with the piano joining the strings in rhythmic unison.
The concise scherzo that follows is full of playful rhythmic and compositional tricks, introducing the opening motif from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and even flirting with a unison line of eleven different notes—almost a twelve-tone row.
The pastoral third movement, marked Allegretto semplice, is gently lyrical with a dance-like lilt, hinting at a folk style. As the opening C major evolves into a new idea in F-sharp major, the Beethoven’s Fifth motif returns as a gentle birdcall in the piano. The music comes to a point of rest, and then a slowly unfolding violin line creates an atmosphere of contemplative stillness with the suspension of time. The opening returns in a simpler orchestration, and Beethoven’s birdcall reminds us of where we have been before a series of gentle breaths brings the movement to a close.
The Presto finale is full of infectious joy, driven by the piano’s insistent eighth notes and a rollicking melody in the cello marked spigliato quasi sgarbato (jaunty, almost rude). The use of modality and pentatonicism, along with the rhythmically energetic tunes tossed back and forth throughout the movement, evoke the music of Perrachio’s beloved Piedmont.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s career was far more public than Perrachio’s, with early success and many important performances and publications. While his fame rose after he met Andrés Segovia in 1932 and began to write for guitar, his reputation in instrumental music, song, and opera was already well established. In 1926, Guido Gatti wrote in the Musical Quarterly,
One of the salient characteristics of Castelnuovo’s music [is] a breadth of human feeling which, brought to bear on us, strives and is able to awaken the generous emotions that often lie dormant in man, awaiting only a fraternal word for their awakening. Hence, the temper of Castelnuovo’s work is never indifferent, never a mere motive for picture-painting. Friendly voices speak from the pages where the drama of life is depicted with marked emotion; echoes are awakened of long ages of tenderness thrown away because men failed to divine it.
The first Piano Quintet was composed in 1932, and, from his own account, we know that the composer toured with the piece with the Poltronieri Quartet. His memoir includes a description of a bizarre performance of the work at the home of the poet-turned-failed-insurrectionist Gabriele D’Annunzio (whom he refers to, tongue firmly in cheek, as “the Commander”). As Castelnuovo-Tedesco tells the story,
[D’Annunzio] immediately took me to … the new music room he had created, “because [said D’Annunzio] no one knows the laws of Acoustics as I know them! The beauty of a Sound does not result from the materials used, but rather from the number of acoustic planes. Have you ever happened to play in the shade of a magnolia tree?” I admitted that I had never taken it into my head to have my Steinway brought out of doors, let alone into the shade of a magnolia tree. “Well, now,” he said, “if you had ever played under a magnolia tree, you would have heard an admirable acoustical effect, for the great number of shiny leaves in a variety of positions increases the sound. This is why I have built my music room to resemble a magnolia tree!” Alas, it was true! Big and little curtains, stretched every which way, were scattered throughout the room, and the acoustical results were truly catastrophic. Nevertheless, the performance of the Quintet went well, and D’Annunzio showed real enthusiasm for it. (A Lifetime of Music, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Harvey Sachs)
The First Quintet is tuneful, colorful, theatrical, and brilliantly orchestrated. The writing evokes the composer’s native Tuscany as well his Jewish roots, and also shows the perfect craftmanship and attention to detail that characterize all of his works. And, while the structures he uses are all quite traditional, his sense of tonal direction is unusual, perhaps influenced by Mahler’s idea of progressive tonality. The first movement begins in F major, the principal key of the whole work, but ends in D major—a color shift that the composer makes especially telling. The second is in D minor at the outset, and ends in D major. The third movement begins in A minor, but again cannot resist the pull of D major in the end. The finale begins in A minor as well, but moves to E-flat for the second theme, returns to A minor for varied reprises of the opening theme (including a funeral march), and then ends up at long last in a mock-triumphant F major.
The first movement has a brief slow introduction, opening with a four-note motive that develops into the main theme of the movement. While Castelnuovo-Tedesco is economical with his material, there is such sweep and lyrical intensity in the writing that the listener hears an endless stream of familiar melody. Under the surface, there is always intense counterpoint, featuring constant layering of the different short motives upon which the movement is based. The second movement is a simple nocturne, a slow march, melancholy and nostalgic. The Scherzo that follows dances lightly, as its tempo indication tells us. The sense of nostalgia is never far away, though, with moments of grotesquerie and charm freely intermingling, and a sense of chiaroscuro throughout. The finale is intense and passionate, with its Rondo structure cloaked by a continuous evolution and transformation of the opening theme. The contrasting second theme may celebrate his Jewish heritage—an explicit characteristic of his contemporaneous violin concerto. This material is combined contrapuntally with the less exotic material of the opening, creating an effect of not-quite-assimilation that gives the movement its particular flavor. The inclusion of a funeral march, the turbulence of much of the music, and the character of the individual themes create a sense of unease that could reflect the rising anti-Semitism of fascist Italy. The apparent triumph of the final pages rings hollow against the larger drama of the movement and the times.
July 25, 2023
Amy Galluzzo is a founding member of Trio Flamecrest. She was a member of the Carpe Diem String Quartet for many years, touring in the US and internationally. She has performed at the Tanglewood, Chelsea, Taos, and Sarasota festivals, collaborating with Masuko Ushioda, John Ferrillo, Shem Guibbory, James Buswell and Carol Ou. More unusual collaborations include Yihan Chen, pipa, Scott McConnell, steel pan, and Dariush Saghafi, santoor. With CDSQ, she made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2017, and is featured on CDs of music by Reza Vali, Jeff Midkiff, and Sergei Taneyev. World premieres include works by David Stock, Reza Vali, Derrick Jordan, Jeff Nytch, Jeff Midkiff and Jonathan Leshnoff. She has performed across Europe and America and served as concertmaster under Kurt Masur, Raphael Frühbeck de Burgos and Christoph von Dohnányi. She received her BM, MM and Graduate Diploma from New England Conservatory and is a PhD candidate at New York University.
Ariana Nelson, cellist of the Carpe Diem String Quartet, is an avid proponent of new music, and loves experimenting with improvisation and folk music. She co-founded the Pacific Crest Trio in 2020, diving into multiple genres and prioritizing audience engagement. She has performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center and with the Silk Road Ensemble at Tanglewood. Ariana grew up in Seattle playing string quartets, inspired by her grandfather Alan Iglitzin, the founding violist of the Philadelphia String Quartet, and her mother Karen, who also played in the quartet. She is artist faculty at the Charles Ives Music Festival in Danbury, CT, and has performed at Grand Teton Music Festival, Spoleto USA, Tanglewood, Aspen, Domaine Forget, Olympic Music Festival, and others. Ariana received her MM degree at the Juilliard School in 2017 where she studied with Darrett Adkins. She completed her BM degree cum laude at Rice University under Norman Fischer in 2015.
Amy Galluzzo, Guest Violin
Marisa Ishikawa, Violin
Korine Fujiwara, Viola
Ariana Nelson, Cello
Award winning pianist David Korevaar has performed throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. Korevaar's active career includes performances with the Rochester Philharmonic, Colorado Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Japan’s Shonan Chamber Orchestra, Brazil’s Goiania Symphony, and with acclaimed conductors Guillermo Figueroa, Per Brevig, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski and Jorge Mester. A founding member of the Boulder Piano Quartet, he also performs regularly with the Takács Quartet. Korevaar’s extensive discography of over 50 titles includes world premiere recordings of piano music by Luigi Perrachio, as well as works by Reza Vali, Paul Juon, Liebermann, Tibor Harsányi, Dohnányi, Louis Aubert, Jean Roger-Ducasse, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Fauré, Ravel, Hindemith, and Chopin. Future recording projects include the Sonatas of Beethoven. Of special interest, he has concertized and given master classes in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, and taught at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul. Korevaar is Distinguished Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Montana-born violinist and violist Korine Fujiwara is founding violist of the Carpe Diem String Quartet and a critically acclaimed composer and arranger. She is a Professor at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA; she previously taught at Ohio Wesleyan University. Named as one of Strings Magazine’s “25 Contemporary Composers to Watch,” she has received commissions for opera, chamber ensembles, chorus, concerti, and music for modern dance. Her music, encompassing classical, folk, jazz, and rock and roll influences, has been performed throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. She received an Opera America Commissioning Grant for The Flood, an award-winning opera with librettist Stephen Wadsworth premiered in Columbus, OH in February 2019. She holds degrees from The Juilliard School and Northwestern University, working with Joseph Fuchs, Myron Kartman, Harvey Shapiro, Robert Mann, and Joel Krosnik. She performs on a 1790 Contreras violin, 2004 Kurt Widenhouse viola, with bows by Paul Martin Siefried, Ole Kanestrom and Charles Espey.
Marisa Ishikawa is a performer, entrepreneur, and educator. She is Second Violinist in the Carpe Diem String Quartet. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and Jordan Hall, and in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, The Netherlands, and China. In 2016, she co-founded Austin Camerata, which has broadened the audience for chamber music through creative artistic collaborations, performances in unique venues, and inclusive concert experiences. She is also the co-founder of Opus 1 Chamber Music School, Houston’s chamber music program for pre-college and adult students. Ishikawa holds degrees from the University of Colorado Boulder and University of Texas Austin.
Luigi Perrachio (b Turin, 28 May 1883; d Turin, 6 Sept 1966). Italian composer, pianist and writer on music. He studied the piano in his native city and later in Vienna, and also read law at Turin University. As a composer he was largely self-taught, though eventually (1913) he gained a diploma in composition as well as piano at the Liceo Musicale, Bologna. He taught the piano at the Turin Liceo Musicale (1925–40), and then composition in the same institution until 1955. A keen propagandist for contemporary music through his activities as conductor, pianist and writer, he also fought ardently for the reform of Italian musical education. Extreme modesty kept him from publishing more than a very little of his music: only a few piano works, songs and harp pieces were ever printed. Most of these derive in some way from the Debussy-Ravel tradition, sometimes with notable sensitivity. The Nove poemetti, for example, show an excellent command of a wide variety of Debussian techniques, ranging from the intricate, evanescent arabesques of no.4 (‘Libellule’) to the brooding, shadowy chord progressions of no.3 (‘La notte dei morti’, perhaps the finest of the set). The striking 25 Preludes (Perrachio’s best-known work) are more architectonic in conception, and sometimes show a truly modern toughness; yet here too Debussy and Ravel are rarely lost sight of for long. Perrachio’s unpublished large-scale compositions are sometimes even bolder harmonically: the opening of the Piano Concerto, marked aspro e rabbioso, is violent to the point of uncouthness. Neither in this nor in other unpublished works, however, do the manuscripts quite bear out the high claims made for Perrachio by some Italian writers.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (b Florence, 3 April 1895; d Beverly Hills, CA, 16 March 1968). Italian composer, pianist and writer on music.