Movement 1: Sire Huguet
Movement 2: Le quai du Port de Famagoustentry
Movement 3: Au Château de la Reine sans merci
Movement 4: La danse de Pauvreté et de parfait Amour
Movement 5: La danse de l'Amour et de la Mort parfumée
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