The Five Pieces were published in 1906 by Edition Mozarthaus in Vienna. It may seem curious that a largely unknown young Italian composer was appearing in print in the Austrian capital, but Mozarthaus had been acquired in 1903 by Carlo Schmidl, a noted musical lexicographer and publisher born in Trieste who established the firm of C Schmidl & Co there (shown as the co-publisher, along with Hofmeister of Leipzig, on the title page of Respighi’s pieces). Schmidl became a tireless proponent of Italian music both ancient and modern, from arias by Cavalli to Busoni’s opera Die Brautwahl
. The Five Pieces by Respighi were probably not intended to be played as a set (each was published separately), but they form a very attractive sequence starting with a charming Romanza
in which a long violin melody unwinds over repeating piano chords. The Aubade
is a light-hearted piece with a subsidiary idea that seems to suggest the colouring of gypsy music. Apart from a short central section, the Madrigale
is based on a theme that is never allowed to become predictable despite its apparent simplicity, since Respighi cleverly varies the lengths of phrases. The Berceuse
presents a tender melody on muted violin (marked to be played dolcissimo) over an accompaniment that becomes more elaborate—decorated by trills—while remaining constant and calm. The longest of the five pieces is the Humoresque
, which opens, after a few piano chords, with a flamboyant violin cadenza introducing some of the musical ideas that follow. A slower central section sees a move from G minor to G major, and the transformation of one of the ideas already heard into a more yearning theme—a process echoed just before a dash to the close. The first three pieces are dedicated to Umberto Supino, and the last two to Mario Corti. Both were fellow Sarti pupils, and both had participated in the first performance of Respighi’s most important chamber work to date—the Piano Quintet, given at the Liceo musicale on 8 June 1902 when Supino had played the second violin and Corti the viola (much later, Respighi dedicated his Poema autunnale for violin and orchestra to Corti).
from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2012