20th Century Italian Composers.
20th Century Italian Composers, edited by Alfonso Alberti. Ricordi, 2012. www.halleonard.com; 64 pp., $19.99.
These 10 piano pieces written between 1915 and 1941 will appeal to performers, teachers, students and audiences. The composers--Ferrucio Busoni, Alfredo Casella, Francesco Malipiero, Ottorino Respighi, Riccardo Pick-Mangiagalli, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Vicenzo Davico, Goffredo Petrassi, Nino Rota and Mario Pilati--influenced the development of 20th-century Italian music. Notes on each composer and work are included. The pieces are "advanced," but none exceeds Maurice Hinson's "moderately difficult" category. The musical language is freely tonal with excursions into modality, and primarily diatonic and linear in conception. Strong melodies contribute to the beauty of these works. Most are character pieces--slow, expressive and short.
The ravishing "Colloque au Clair de Lune" by Pick-Mangiagalli, with its melody and accompaniment texture, voicing challenges, and abundant dominant seventh chords is aligned with 19th-century romanticism. "Eppitaffio" by Malipeiro is hauntingly beautiful. Fourths are a prominent linear element, while triadic harmony is foundational. "Tre Pastorali d'Autunno" by Davico, exploring tonal color, melodic expression and unmetered recitative style, would make an effective set for a high school student. "No. I (Morning ...)" and "No. III (Late Evening ...)" are rather slow and easy to play, although the unmetered notation may appear daunting at first. "No. II" is toccata-like with a driving left-hand ostinato. An ever-present C-sharp octave ostinato represents chimes at sunset in Respighi's "Preludio III su Melodie Gregoriane." Notated on three staves, voicing is challenging. Petrassi's "Piccola Invenzione," centered around C, hints at various tonalities--different ones in each hand--bringing to mind the playful surprises in a Shostakovich dance. Rota's "Ippolito Gioco" is a brief, well-constructed joyous romp in C major. Busoni's "Sonatina No. 4," Castelnuovo's "Charlie" from Two Film Studies, and Casella's "Due Ricercari sul nome B-A-C-H" are more extended and more difficult. An effective performance of the Busoni by Alvaro Ordonez is posted on YouTube. --Reviewed by Beverly Smoker, Nazareth College