Davide Cabassi

Quasi una Fantasia

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Italian pianist Davide Cabassi has made several recordings that put the works of the established masters in context, and this one uses the two sonatas of Beethoven's Op. 27 (the second the famous "Moonlight") as bookends for a little-known work by Luigi Cherubini. Cherubini's somewhat contradictory title Caprice ou Étude pour le Fortepiano suggests its episodic quality. It's not Beethoven, but it suggests that the irregular form of Beethoven's two sonatas was not solely one of his innovations (the Cherubini work was composed in Paris in 1789). The Cherubini piece is in nine movements, most of which consist of shorter chunks that resemble dramatic utterances; there is little thematic development. The whole thing is tied together by three substantial fugues, in the third (where the fugue has a moderato introduction), fifth, and final movements. The work seems to have been intended to show off the capabilities of a virtuoso who had mastered not only character pieces but also strict forms, and indeed it may have been written for Hélène de Mongéroult, a pianist and the mistress of the great violinist Viotti. At any rate, it's music Beethoven might well have heard; it's virtually unknown (as is most of Cherubini's music, largely due to the lamentable dominance of Germans over the writing of music history) and it's engagingly played by Cabassi. His Beethoven sonatas themselves, dryly accurate, would not be first picks by themselves, but the program as a whole makes sense. Recommended for anyone interested in the late Classical period.

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