Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A release from MSR Classics brings world premiere recordings of chamber works by Vittorio Giannini in fine performances by Musicians from the Manchester Music Festival, Vermont

Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966) was born in Philadelphia, USA to parents who were both professional musicians. He initially studied violin with his mother before attending the Milan Conservatory where he studied violin and composition. He returned to the USA to take his graduate degree at the Juilliard School where he later taught before moving on to the Manhattan School of Music and the Curtis Institute of Music. In 1965 Giannini founded the North Carolina School of the Arts, bringing artists such as cellist Janos Starker and violinist Ruggiero Ricci to teach there. He remained there until his death in 1966.

Giannini’s compositions include operas, choral and vocal works, symphonies, concertos, chamber works and instrumental works. Very much reflecting late Romanticism his music was increasingly regarded as old-fashioned by the new movement in music.

A recording from MSR Classics of two of his chamber works gives us the opportunity to listen without prejudices. Musicians from the Manchester Music Festival, Vermont, USA perform his Quintet for Piano and Strings and Trio for Piano and Strings in world premiere recordings.

MS 1394

Joana Genova and Stefan Milenkovich (violins),  Ariel Rudiakov (viola),  Ani Aznavoorian (cello) and  Adam Neiman  (piano) come together to perform the Quintet for Piano and Strings. The Allegro con spirito has a gentle opening, slowly building in strength in a swaying melody that is wholly attractive. Soon the music becomes more affirmative before falling to a hushed section where the piano leads the theme against hushed strings. The strings take the melody in a lovely section that again builds in strength and drama. There are more, gentle, thoughtful passages exquisitely played by these artists, as well as peaks of passionate playing. The music rises, centrally, in an insistent theme particularly for the piano before the strings take the music into gentler waters. There are more moments of increased passion before the ardent coda.

The cello opens the Adagio before the piano lays down a descending motif which is repeated before the strings enter together in another lovely theme. Soon the piano picks out the melody against hushed strings in a particularly beautiful section.  Eventually the tempo picks up a little, with some lovely string writing before the music becomes darker and somewhat more agitated, rising in passion with more terrific string writing. Towards the end the music returns to the gentle tranquillity of the opening. The piano plays gentle languid phrases with the strings taking the melody before the gentle coda.

The strings lead the way in the Allegro, with a moderately lively opening that slowly increases in tempo as the piano becomes more dominant. Staccato strings and piano lead to a faster tempo as the music pushes forward. Soon the music drops to a gentler section in a lovely melody before the piano heralds the return of the livelier theme, taking the strings forward, ever faster, leading to a number of intense peaks. Though the music quietens, it soon becomes more impassioned before driving forcefully to the coda.

It beggars belief that a work of this quality has lain ignored for so long. With performances this good this Quintet deserves a wide audience.

Stefan Milenkovich (violin), Ani Aznavoorian (cello) and Adam Neiman (piano) return to play the Trio for Piano and Strings. The cello leads the melody of the Allegro non troppo with a gentle piano accompaniment before the violin joins in this lovely undulating theme, with some exquisite little string textures. Whilst the development section of this movement may occasionally flag it does not detract from the many fine moments, particularly as the music quietens before the return of the opening melody. Later there is an attractive, short solo piano section before the music eventually rises to a fine coda.

The Andante triste opens with a quiet, intensely passionate theme that is shared around the trio. The music drops to a hushed section again shared around the players before leading to a gloriously romantic section that slowly rises up with incisive string playing before this arch romantic melody leads to a quiet conclusion.

Opening with a rising theme for all the players, the Allegro non troppo, con eleganza. soon develops in tempo and dynamics, becoming more agitated. Soon the opening, theme returns but, again, becomes more agitated with strong descending piano scales before a rhythmic section appears, somewhat Mediterranean in feel. The opening theme returns in a slightly different guise before rising again in drama with some particularly fine string playing leading to the lively coda that ends with a surprise.

This is a very attractive work that, whilst not reaching the heights of the Piano Quintet will bring much pleasure particularly in this fine performance.

There is a very fine recording made in the excellent acoustic of Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, New York, USA and there are interesting booklet notes by Adam Neiman and Ariel Rudiakov and the composer’s niece, Maura Giannini.

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