Prece Ad Un Angelo / Roberto Noferini, Andrea Toschi
PRAYER TO AN ANGEL: Rare Works of Italian Romanticism • Roberto Noferini (vn); Andrea Toschi (org) • TACTUS 810001 (62:45)
ELLENA 6 pezzi religiosi: selections. SIVORI Andante religioso. LANZI Prece ad un Angelo. ALBERTI Petit nocturne. VITALI-RESPIGHI Chaconne. NEGLIA Largo espressivo. CASELLATI Andante. DE ANGELIS Rêve d’amour. RAMACCIOTTI Canto Religioso
Violinist Roberto Noferini and organist Andrea Toschi have uncovered a number of works for violin and organ in a genre and style that the notes by Massimiliano Guido suggest have become unfashionable. The notes also mention Pope Pius XII’s 1903 Moto Proprio , which mandated a renewal of sacred music, but it’s hard to imagine that Pontiff enjoying, not to mention tolerating, many—or, possibly, any—of these works in a liturgical context. Noferini plays the program on an 1865 Giuseppe Scarampella violin, while Toschi plays the organ of the Basilica of Saint Stephen in Bologna, an instrument surprisingly described in the booklet’s English translation as “electric.”
The recital opens with three of the Six Religious Pieces by Giuseppe Antonio Ellena, who, according to the notes, dedicated them to, among others, violinist Enrico Polo (composer of a very musical and logical introduction to double-stops still studied by many students). The first, “Intrada,” opens with a double-stopped section in which the violin and organ balance well (not always the case in works performed by these two instruments), as they do in the broad melodic section that follows. Noferini plays with a declamatory strength and Toschi with a discretion that assures that their musical personalities, as well as their instruments, never conflict. In the second piece, “Preghiera” (Prayer), Toschi concedes center stage to Noferini. Again, the harmonic devices, with indulgent chromatic twists, sound as though they might have come directly from another era. Some may find it nostalgic and others, cloying; few will fail to react. The last piece, “Adorazione,” continues in the harmonic and melodic vein of the second, near the end quoting the hymn Adoro te devote . The Andante religioso by Camillo Sivori, the only pupil of Nicolò Paganini, seems almost a facsimile of the Larghetto from Louis Spohr’s Duo Concertante for Two Violins, op. 67/2, the correspondence holding even through the triplet accompaniment in the middle section. Guido describes Bernardino Lanzi’s Prece ad un Angelo , op. 118, as both “impressionist” and “evocative,” although it’s hard to hear the harmonic techniques of the Impressionists in the writing, individual though it may be (in fact, it sounds harmonically less mannered that the pieces that precede it or than Ferruccio Carlo Alberti’s brief Petit nocturne , which follows it on the program).
Ottorino Respighi’s reworking of Tomasso Vitali’s Chaconne occupies the center of the program and serves, with its length and gravity, as the anchor. This piece or setting will hardly be unfamiliar to violin aficionados; Jascha Heifetz recorded it with Richard Elsasser in 1950 (although some differences appear in the violin part; Heifetz’s came from an edition made by Leopold Charlier and Leopold Auer). While Heifetz played this piece with transcendental virtuosity and soaring nobility of style, Noferini and Toschi explore its timbral subtleties more effectively, and they’re aided by greater clarity in the recorded sound. In doing so, however, they take a more leisurely stroll through some of the variations, allowing the organ’s sonorities to resonate at the grand climaxes but diminishing slightly the violin part’s urgency.
The quiet expressiveness of the Largo espressivo , op. 40, by Francesco Paolo Neglia and the Andante by Antonio Casellati strike a similarly ingratiating vein of almost salon-like sensibility, though Casellati’s work includes some figuration that sounds very violinistic (though not at all virtuosic). Girolamo de Angelis’s Rêve d’amour (subtitled a prélude mélodique ), op. 4, encloses a more agitated middle section; both Noferini and Toschi seem to sense, as they do throughout the program, when and how to shift gears. Finally, Tullio Ramacciotti’s Canto Religioso , op. 17, replete with double-stops and more developed writing for the violin, brings the program to an exciting end.
For those who like this kind of thing (and some of it, echoing the same era, occasionally sounds like excerpts from a theater organ score for silent movies), this will be the kind of thing they like. While such almost indulgent romanticism may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and this disc may not make Eugenio Pacelli’s Want List, both the sumptuously toned Noferini and the regal (no pun intended) Toschi play well and, more importantly, play well together. Tactus has recorded them without overload or even distortion, a feat in itself. It’s hard to imagine this repertoire, except perhaps Vitali’s Chaconne, which Heifetz belted with incomparable aplomb, championed more sympathetically. Most strongly—I’d even say urgently—recommended to its special audience.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Catalog Number: TC810001
Composer: Antonio Casellati, Bernardino Lanzi, Camillo Sivori, Ferruccio Carlo Alberti, Francesco Paolo Neglia, Girolamo De Angelis, Giuseppe Antonio Ellena, Ottorino Respighi, Tullio Ramacciotti
Performer: Andrea Toschi, Roberto Noferini