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Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
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
Track(s) taken from CDH55329
Recording details: December 1998
Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh, Scotland
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: October 1999
Total duration: 22 minutes 34 seconds

'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)

La Pisanella. Suite
composer
first performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, on 11 June 1913; concert suite first performed at the Augusteo, Rome, in 1917

Sire Huguet  [3'17]

In 1913 and 1914, having already written a three-act opera Fedra and incidental music for La Nave, Pizzetti composed music for two further theatrical works by Gabriele d’Annunzio: the dramatic poem La Pisanella, and Cabiria. The latter score was fashioned into a Sinfonia del fuoco, which remained unpublished, but the first performance of La Pisanella took place at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 11 June 1913—less than a fortnight after the premiere of The Rite of Spring had taken place in the same city. Few contemporaneous scores could be more different than these, yet there are occasional points of contact, as may be heard. Such was the success of the production and the impact of the music that Pizzetti made a five-movement concert suite for orchestra which was first performed at the Augusteo in Rome in 1917.

As with the Oedipus symphonic preludes, a detailed knowledge of the dramatic events is unnecessary to appreciate this bejewelled and colourful score, which proved greatly popular in the following decades. Toscanini (who conducted the premieres of two of Pizzetti’s operas) included the second movement of the suite in his very first recording sessions, in December 1920.

The verse-play is set in Famagusta, Cyprus, during the Venetian rule of the island in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and consequently afforded Pizzetti much opportunity for local colour. The orchestral suite opens with a Prelude, ‘Sire Huguet‘, a portrait of the king, lost in thought, in his palace. This slow, beautiful and splendidly scored piece is followed by the original Prelude to Act I, the vividly descriptive ‘Le quai du port de Famagoustentry‘ (‘Quayside at the port of Famagusta’), a bustling Vivamente in 1/4 (!) which is contrasted with a feminine, sinuous, Middle-Eastern theme, before the crowded music returns. The third movement, ‘Au château de la reine sans merci‘ (‘At the castle of the merciless queen’), the Prelude to Act III of the play, is based on two themes: the first, on the cellos, unaccompanied, is associated with the queen herself, and the second—on flute, oboe and bassoon—has been termed the ‘rose theme’, depicting the castle’s hanging gardens, redolent with every known species of rose, which, as it were, oversee all. This is one of the most beautiful and purely impressionistic movements in all of Pizzetti’s works.

The fourth movement in the suite, for strings alone (divided into ten parts), is ‘La danse de pauvreté et de parfait amour‘ (‘The dance of poverty and perfect love’), danced by the eponymous Pisan Woman, expressing her sorrow at the loss of the love of Frederick of Alberiques. Miraculously, as the dance comes to its end, her smile turns to speech as the love is restored.

The finale of the suite, also from the original Act III, is a vivid dance of love, with La Pisanella intoxicated by what she has seen and been able to achieve through her mystic dancing. Musically, the score teems with a brilliant mixture of new ideas, which are sometimes combined with previously heard themes—notably the ‘rose theme’ from the third movement, here more extensively treated, the vibrant whole bringing this outstanding suite to a magical conclusion.

from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 1999

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