Thomás Nemec

Mario Pilati: Concerto for Orchestra; Suite for Strings and Piano

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Born in 1903 and active in the 1920s and 1930s before his death at age 35, Italian composer Mario Pilati has been largely forgotten. His resurrection here is due to the championing of the single-named Swiss conductor Adriano, who also wrote the enthusiastic booklet notes. Pilati's style shows the influence of Respighi and of the more contemporary neo-classic movement, which converge in his expansive treatment of antique dance forms like the minuet and the sarabande. Adriano sets great store by the opening Concerto for orchestra in C major, one of the earlier works to use that designation. Pilati's inspiration may have been Ernest Bloch's two works of the early '20s that use the earlier concerto grosso designation, and his incorporation of the piano into the basic every-instrument-is-a-soloist configuration of the concerto grosso has several surprises, and the final Rondò alla tirolese is filled with colorful folk rhythms. But the work lacks the sense of humor that is the most distinctive thing in the music by Pilati heard on this disc. The small dances of the Three Pieces for Orchestra and the Suite for Strings and Piano display Pilati's talent as an orchestrator to better advantage, quickly veering off from the basic dance strains into fantasies on the rhythm involved, punctuated by unexpected texture shifts. The final By the Cradle, composed shortly before Pilati's death in 1938, is a simple tonal work and certainly deserves wider exposure. The prolific musicians of the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra rose to new heights for conductor Adriano in this recording, made in Bratislava in 2000 and 2001, but the three shorter works on the program could probably stand up to a performance by one of the true virtuoso chamber orchestras of the day, and probably deserve such a performance.

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