Hagai Shaham / Arnon Erez

Pizzetti & Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Violin Sonatas

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The name of Ildebrando Pizzetti is hardly known today, and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco is familiar mostly through his American film scores. Yet both of the larger pieces here could have shown up on many a recital in the 1930s, and they are of their time in illuminating ways. The booklet notes comes with a quotation praising Pizzetti as the greatest Italian composer of his day, this at a time when Puccini and Respighi were at the top of their powers. One may not go that far, but the Violin Sonata in A major, finished in 1919, is something that no one else at the time quite accomplished: a lament for the World War I dead that deploys a mixture of then-novel elements. These include plainchant and, especially in the slow Preghiera per gl'innocenti (Prayer for the Innocents) movement (track 2), operatic melody. An odd combination, perhaps, but it persuades the listener that it is deeply felt. Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Sonata quasi una fantasia, Op. 56, composed in 1929, is less topical but no less contemporary in spirit, mixing impressionistic elements, classical form, dance rhythms, and jazz. One can bet that Italian and German anti-Semites hated it, and it could have hastened the composer's departure for the United States. Each sonata is accompanied by a set of short pieces that show the abundant melodic gifts of the two composers, and there's lots of music here that could spice up a chamber recital if given the chance. The Jerusalem Music Centre provides a clear if unspectacular sonic environment.

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