Thursday 9 October 2014

Venezuelan/American cellist Carmine Miranda brings much fine musicianship to the 12 Caprices of Alfredo Piatti on a new release from Navona Records

I have to confess that until a new CD arrived for review I hadn’t listened to any music by the Italian composer and cellist Alfredo Piatti (1822-1901)

He was born in Bergamo and studied at the Milan Conservatory. He received encouragement from Liszt and Mendelssohn before pursuing a solo career throughout Europe though he also played in Joachim’s quartet.

His compositions include six cello sonatas, two concertos, as well as his 12 Caprices for solo cello, Op.25 that are featured on a new release from Navona Records with the young Venezuelan/American cellist Carmine Miranda


Carmine Miranda was born in Valencia to Italian immigrants but moved to the United States at an early age. He began his musical studies at the age of seven at the Carabobo State Music Conservatory in Venezuela, where he studied theory and solfege, graduating from the Private Institute of Musical Education or I.P.E.M. He studied cello with cellists Luisa Fuentes, Valmore Nieves and William Molina, at the Latin-American Academy of Violoncello  and the Simon Bolivar Conservatory of Music whilst, at the same time, being a member of the National Youth Orchestra and the Orchestra of Beethoven under the direction of Giuseppe Sinoppoli.

In the U.S. he studied with cellists Ross Harbaugh, Lee Fiser (LaSalle String Quartet) and is a pupil of cellist Yehuda Hanani at the University Of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where he obtained a Bachelors of Arts in music, Master’s Degree and Doctorate’s degree candidacy.

Miranda has received awards from a number of music competitions and has performed with several chamber ensembles, orchestras at prominent concert halls and music festivals including Carnegie Hall, the Aula Magna Hall, Bowdoin Music Festival, Close Encounters with Music Series in Great Barrington, NY. Carmine Miranda has already recorded Bach’s  Six Cello Suites for Centaur Records.

With his superb technique, Piatti sought in these Caprices to extend the scope and range of the cello much as Paganini did with the violin. They are, therefore, a supreme challenge for any cellist.

Immediately the deep, rapidly bowed theme of the first caprice, Allegro quasi presto, draws the ear as the cello slowly rises across the range, the little melody appearing between the lines. I particularly like the way Carmine Miranda draws the long phrase at the end.

There is some tremendously impressive multiple stopping from Miranda in the Andante religioso. Listening there could be two cellists playing, such is Miranda’s technique and phrasing. Centrally he shows some delicious flexibility and fine tone, bringing musicality to the sheer technical demands with a particularly lovely coda.

The Moderato is light and fleet, using the upper register of the cello, showing off Miranda’s lovely tone and dexterity whereas the fourth caprice, Allegretto, brings a rhythmically heavier texture.

Miranda brings out the many lines and details with lovely phrasing of each line of the Allegro comodo with a warm, firm tone in the fleeting passages. Some fine sweeps up and down the cello in the Adagio largamente which develops through some very fine passages showing off Miranda’s range of tone and flexibility. It is an attractive piece in the hands of this performer who brings out the many beauties of the piece.

The Maestoso has a lovely spring to the rhythms with some of the finest playing, on this disc full of subtle colouring and dynamics. A Latin rhythm infuses the Moderato ma energico rising up the cello to the higher register with Miranda extracting some fine sonorities as the cello returns to its middle region. There are some slow deep resonant chords before the theme sets off again with some pretty difficult passages before the end.

The tenth caprice, Allegro is full of character as its little theme jogs along with many hidden technical difficulties that Miranda hides so well, before speeding slightly to the end. The Allegro deciso rushes ahead, fleet of foot with tremendous dexterity from Miranda, almost a moto perpetuo, with one feeling that the cellist is enjoying himself immensely despite the demands on him.

There is an incisive opening to the Adagio – Allegro before a Latin theme full of Mediterranean warmth appears, full of multiple stopping through which the theme peers. The music rises to a passionate pitch before the considered coda. With the final caprice, Allegretto capriccioso, Piatti gives the cellist a lighter and more buoyant piece. Played spectacularly well by Miranda, this is surely a piece that would sound equally at home transcribed for violin with lovely little high notes interspersing the lower during the course of this work, all beautifully and often playfully done by Miranda before the super little coda.

Whilst these works will appeal particularly to cello aficionados others will fine much that is very attractive in the fine musicianship Miranda brings to these incredibly difficult pieces.

Carmine Miranda is quite closely recorded but with excellent detail and tone. There are informative notes by the cellist.


  1. I am compiling list of top cello musicians? I am learning cello at school and my teacher asked me the same. I just know about YO-YO Ma and looking for few more names.

    1. If you're looking at all time great cellists then think about Pablo Casals, Mstislav Rostropovich, Paul Tortelier and Jacqueline du Pre to name just a few. Of today's cellists you might consider the recently retired Julian Lloyd Webber as well as Jean-Guihen Queyras, Raphael Wallfisch, Steven Isserlis, Mischa Maisky and Pieter Wispelwey - these are just the ones that come immediately to mind. Perhaps readers of this blog might care to name a few more. Best of luck with your studies. Best wishes - the Classical Reviewer.