Mattia Zappa / Massimiliano Mainolfi

Lux Nordica

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Few works emerged for the cello out of the Nordic region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The standout is Grieg's A minor Sonata for cello and piano, a work written for his amateur cellist brother but later adopted by Pablo Casals as one of his favorite works for the instrument. Other works for cello by Grieg and Sibelius exist either as transcriptions of violin pieces or as the cello suggested as an alternate in the original score. Lux Nordica, an album by cellist Mattia Zappa and pianist Massimiliano Mainolfi, presents the works of these two composers and in some ways leaves listeners wishing that more Nordic composers had written for the cello. Zappa and Mainolfi imbue their playing with intense passion and heavy Romanticism: sweeping dynamics, abundant rubato, variations in tone color. Zappa's playing is technically quite clean, with polished intonation, effortless shifts, and precise articulation. Where the duo fails, however, is in balance and sound production. Zappa's sound is not huge, a fact that would not in and of itself detract from the album. However, Mainolfi does not compensate for Zappa's lower volume production and instead often tramples the cello rendering it almost completely inaudible at times. Zappa attempts to compensate in especially densely scored sections by forcing his instrument to deliver more than it can, resulting in a crunched, overexerted sound. This is a true shame, as Zappa genuinely brings these works to life in almost every other way.

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