Tito Ceccherini

Niccolò Castiglioni: Quilisma

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Niccolò Castiglioni (1932-1996) was something of an anomaly for a modernist European composer of his generation; he was in no way a traditionalist, but he did not believe that the sun rose and set on the works and theoretical framework of Webern. He was familiar with the newest developments in classical composition, but remained free from allegiance to any particular theoretical school of thought. This puts him somewhat in the same philosophical arena as composers as diverse as Ligeti, Kurtág, and Henze, but Castiglioni's work is less well known in Europe or the U.S. than theirs He developed an individual aesthetic vision over time, but remained true throughout his life. The most immediately noticeable characteristic of his style is its register -- he almost never wrote in the bass clef, and the majority of his sounds hover far above the staff of the treble clef. "Quilisma" (1977) is such a piece -- tiny sounds made by strings and piano with lots of repeating patterns, limited pitch material for the most part, and a quivering filigree of bird-like ornamentation that recalls Messiaen -- and the effect is disarmingly lovely. It's frequently delicate, but never ephemeral -- this is clearly music of genuine substance. Although the six pieces recorded here, written over a period of 33 years, are diverse in their instrumentation and moods, they are recognizably the work of someone with securely established aesthetic vision. Castiglioni's gift for creating pieces that are timbrally so attractive make him a modernist that even a listener who is not generally a fan of musical modernism could find appealing. ("Cantus planus," which features two sopranos in the stratosphere, might, on the other hand, be a hard sell, even for the fervent modernist fan.) Ensemble Risognanze, conducted by Tito Ceccherini, plays his work with absolute conviction and great delicacy, and he makes a strong case for broader exposure of Castiglioni's music.

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