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Hyperion Records

CDH55329 - Pizzetti: Orchestral Music
Venetian Sunset (from a series of paintings in aid of Venice in Peril, 1984-94) by Peter Marchi Nardini (b?)
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist / Private Collection
CDH55329
(Originally issued on CDA67084)
Recording details: December 1998
Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: May 2009
Total duration: 75 minutes 27 seconds

CLASSIC CD 'CHOICE'

'Brilliantly colourful performances—no better way of winning converts to Pizzetti' (Gramophone)

'The four orchestral works on this magnificently-performed and brilliantly-recorded release show off Pizzetti’s sumptuous blend of romantic-impressionistic harmony with modally-inflected melody to its richest and most cinematic … if orchestral splendor is the music lover’s chocolate, this disc is a five-pound box of opera creams. Yum' (American Record Guide)

'This excellent and impeccably played survey reveals a talent well worth investigating' (The Scotsman)

'Strongly recommended' (Hi-Fi News)

'One of the most gorgeous recordings of orchestral music I have heard in the last year' (Crisis, USA)

Orchestral Music
Largo  [5'53]
Con impeto  [5'59]
Sire Huguet  [3'17]

With the exception of a few works by Ottorino Respighi, and for reasons which are relatively obscure, the orchestral concert music of the generation of Italian composers to which Ildebrando Pizzetti belongs has—so far as international acceptance is concerned—remained little-known outside Italy.

It can be claimed that this relative disregard surely has more to do with fashion and performing circumstance than with the quality of the music, and, of these undoubted masters, it is the art of Ildebrando Pizzetti which is perhaps most in need of reassessment and revival, for original music of this self-evident quality—music which was performed and recorded by, among others, Arturo Toscanini, Yehudi Menuhin, Nathan Milstein and Tullio Serafin—manifestly does not deserve to remain unknown.

Pizzetti's music clearly declares him to have been a Latin composer, traditional in approach and general manner, yet always refined and polished by his mastery of a stylization which combined lyrical elements of late-Romanticism (in technique, not ethos), the clear structure of early Italian masters, and a tonal fluidity which may initially have owed a little to César Franck.

His music is imaginative and strikingly beautiful, from the music he composed for theatre (La Pisanella) to the mood pictures (Tre Preludii Sinfonici): all are sure to delight listeners and show that he is a composer who should be neglected no longer.


Ildebrando Pizzetti was born in Parma, not far from Verdi’s birthplace, in September 1880. His father, Odoardo, was a teacher of the piano, and when Ildebrando was two years old the family moved a little way south-east to Reggio Emilia. It was in this town that young Brando Pizzetti was educated, and although the environment at home was musical it was the theatre which first inspired the boy. Barely into his teens, and having already written several plays (two of which he produced with an ad hoc company), it seemed as though his artistic career was firmly fixed; but, when he was fifteen, Pizzetti entered the Parma Musical Conservatoire.

He remained at the Conservatoire from 1895 until 1901. In 1897 the directorship passed to Giovanni Tebaldini (1864–1952)—a remarkable musical scholar who, in 1909, published a sensational essay virtually accusing Richard Strauss of musical plagiarism in his opera Elektra, attempting to show that around fifty themes from Elektra (1909) bore striking similarities to those from the opera Cassandra (1905) by Vittorio Gnecchi (1876–1954).

As may be expected, Tebaldini ensured his students, including Pizzetti, became familiar with the latest music. He also introduced them to neglected early Italian music—twin influences which remained throughout Pizzetti’s adult life. Brando Pizzetti was a keen, hard-working student, and before his graduation in 1901 had already composed and heard performed a number of large-scale works including a symphony, two other symphonic pieces, a cantata with orchestra, a violin sonata and some sacred works. In October 1900, as one of a group of young students, he met Verdi, in whose presence, he recalled, ‘a complete silence descended on the scene. Very rarely, either before or since, have I had such an impression of universal religious awe.’

After his graduation Pizzetti devoted his life to composition, teaching, and writing about music. His extensive output was dominated—although not exclusively—by his music for the theatre, a notable aspect being his choice of recurrent elements of mysticism in such works. Pizzetti also became a much admired and widely respected teacher, in which capacity he held a succession of increasingly important posts. As can be heard in the music on this CD, both Pizzetti’s technique and his musical personality remained remarkably constant throughout his life. His music clearly declares him to have been a Latin composer, traditional in approach and general manner, yet always refined and polished by his mastery of a stylization which combined lyrical elements of late-Romanticism (in technique, not ethos), the clear structure of early Italian masters, and a tonal fluidity which may initially have owed a little to César Franck. Pizzetti’s critical writings include several books, one of them being a biography of Paganini. Together with Giuseppe Bastianelli, he co-founded a journal of modern music, Dissonanza, in 1914.

Robert Matthew-Walker © 1999

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