The Free- Reed Review
CD Review: Francesco
Label: Phoenix Audiosystem
Order through: Francesco Palazzo
Review by James P. O'Brien:
1-3. J. S. Bach (1685- 1750) Die Kunst Der Fuge BWV 1080 (11:13)
6-9. Cesar Franck (1822- 1890) : Prelude, Fugue et Variation (10:05)
10 Felice Lattuada (1882-1962): Improvviso (6:08)
This composition was written in the 1950s for an instrument with Stradella bass but was edited in the 1980s by Salvatore di Gesualdo for free-bass (as were the next two compositions as well). The composition features a lyric melody in homophonic texture free of functional harmony. The melody is slow and ornamented; the harmony, decorative and coloristic with only a hint of dissonance (and even a bit jazz-like at times). This is ternary, with middle section senza battuta. (6:08)
11 Franco Alfano (1876-1954) : Nenia (7:59)
Of the same 1950s school, this work is somewhat impressionistic, with an elaborate melody over a bass line that moves up or down by semi-tones. One could imagine this is being improvised. A middle section features a simpler melody over lush, highly coloristic chords. This is charming but pretty much devoid of musical content beyond tone color. (7:59)
12 Luigi Ferrari-Trecate (1885- 1964) : Pantomima umoristica (4:29)
This brief work is dissonant and sardonic in a manner which reminds one of Prokofiev or Kabelevsky; spritely, playful and masterfully crafted, including the slow middle section. (4:29)
13-15 Sergio Callegaris (1941 - ): Preludio Corale e Finale (7:36)
13. Preludio is restless and dissonant, slow and lugubrious, unfolding as exploration of sonority and timbre, rather than of melodic development. (3:26)
14. Corale is sensitive, tranquil and coloristic. The modal influence of all three movements is most apparent here, drawing on chromaticism of the post- Impressionistic style. (2:43)
15. Finale is wild and highly technical, concluding the entire set with a virtuosic tour de force. (1:27) (The composer of this set, of Argentine origin, was influenced by late Romanticism with its extreme chromaticism and coloristic, non-functional harmony.)
16 Bruno Bartolozzi (1911- 1980): Madrigale di Gesualdo (9:24)
This work was written in the 1970s and, with the exception of the Bach, is one of the more interesting contemporary pieces on this album. Featuring pitch planes sounding against one another at great distance (extreme high versus extreme low), the result is surrealistic and expressionistic. There are only hints of a melody here, much like the pointillism one associates with 12-tone music. The dynamic contrasts provide much interest to the listener as well. The piece is dedicated to the accordionist, Salvatore di Gesaldo, who was named for the great madrigal composer of the late 16th and early 17th Centuries in Italy.
17 Sofia Gubaidulina (1931 -): De profundis (12:14)
Written for Friedrich Lips in 1978, this work was influenced by Psalm 129. It begins with a dark and somber feeling, which is not really mitigated until a melody emerges above the omnipresent tonal masses. This is quite foreboding, but does moderate near its conclusion with a high, rather angelic melody. This is technically demanding, but is stronger on effects than on expression.
Summary (Total time: 78:51) As stated in the CD jacket: "The strongpoints of the new Italian classic accordion school are due to its drawing from the old 'keyboard' literature." Thus, this CD begins with selections from The Art of Fugue, " ...not composed for just one particular keyboard instrument in mind, but a whole range, including the organ, harpsichord, virginals, regal, piano and ... the accordion!" The jump from the baroque era to the Twentieth Century is bold, showing how different the craft of composition was then as compared to now. Melody was inherent and the interplay of contrapuntal lines integral to the fabric of music. By contrast, the Twentieth Century examples seem a bit blatant, using tone color, harmony and effects, but little else to provide musical interest. Technique by itself is not impressive over time, yet most of these new school pieces rely heavily on technique. The reviewer had a hard time sorting out one composition from another, since they all used the same effects. The New Italian School might be better served considering the merits of melody and melodic development to provide interest as well as the contrast among various types of texture. Great music, as with Bach, depends on the balance of all musical elements, not just a few. And a free-bass accordion can obviously provide wonderful melodies in the left hand with octave displacement to contrast with the right- hand. It would have been nice to have heard more.
Francesco Palazzo was born in Martina Franca in 1969 and has impressive credentials, including a diploma (1994) from the Cherubini Conservatory of Florence. He has designed a new concert accordion which he believes is " ... more in line with the renewed artistic requirements ..." of the new Italian School. This CD admirably demonstrates this. Palazzo is a consummate master of his instrument. He presently teaches accordion at the Piccinni Conservatory of Bari, a position he has held since 1993, as well as sustains an active concert presence.
Artist e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
To: "Francesco Palazzo"
Sent: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 3:19 PM
Francesco! You certainly have an enormous accordion. It has a four octave keyboard. Is it the largest piano accordion ever built? What is its weight?
Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2002
yes! My accordion has the larger piano keyboard ever built: 49 key! The weight is 18 about Kg., unfortunately; but I'm planning a new kind more light . It will be ready very soon!
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