Monteverdi: Madrigals & Instrumental Music
The extraordinary figure of Claudio Monteverdi looms large in the history of 17th-century music. As well as being one of the founding fathers of opera, he left an essential corpus of eight books of madrigals. These works were always based on criteria of exceptional profundity and subject to the theoretical debates surrounding the so-called prima prattica and seconda prattica, or first and second practices, the former holding that the words were subservient to the music, the latter the opposite. Taking the second course, Monteverdi was able to push to its limits the impulse to break through any restrictions imposed by a text´s structural and conceptual qualities through the sheer power and beauty of his musical invention.
Golinelli: Piano Sonata op. 30, Grand Sonata op. 53
Francesco Giammarco (Piano) For reasons that are unclear, the Italian composer Stefano Golinelli (1818-1891) has long been consigned to the outer reaches of musical history. Yet in his lifetime he was far from unknown and unrecognised: at just 19, he was elected to the celebrated Accademia Filarmonica Bolognese and had already begun a successful career as a virtuoso pianist across Europe. At 22, on Rossini´s recommendation, he was made chair of the piano department at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, and over a long life he earned the regard not only of Rossini but of other eminent composers, including Schumann and Busoni. On this path-breaking CD, the acclaimed virtuoso Francesco Giammarco makes a compelling case for a reappraisal of Golinelli. His programme centres on the two sonatas Opp. 30 and 53. The first is notable for the its innovative first movement (with its astonishingly coda), while Op.53 (dedicated to Thalberg), with its Chopinesque scherzo, is one of Golinelli´s most well-crafted and imposing works.
Schubert: Die Schone Mullerin
Schubert wrote various kinds of work for the stage. Yet his greatest dramas are to be found in the two song-cycles to poems by Wilhelm Müller. Here voice and piano together depict a natural setting and convey a narrative through songs whose surface simplicity belies their emotional depth. Both cycles are journeys: Die schöne Müllerin, for all that its imagery of streams and industry, nature and young love, is gentler than that of the chilly tale of Winterreise, is equally a story of alienation and death. In an interview that accompanied the first release of this 1997 recording, Bo Skovhus spoke of his research into some of the background to the cycle. He notes that in making his setting, Schubert discarded three of Müller´s 23 poems: ´Schubert neglected the ironic parts on purpose, because he took every poem seriously... Those three poems did not fit what he wanted, and also held up the action.´ He also offers a closing comparison with Winterreise, and its eerie last song, ´Der Leiermann´. Both final songs step outside the action. But in Die schöne Müllerin the mood is consolatory, and Skovhus reads the very last line - ´And the sky above, how wide it is´ - as a moment of peace, and as perhaps offering hope of life after death.
Until 1839, Schumann had published only works for the piano; yet the year before, he had admitted to his fiancée Clara Wieck that the instrument was ´becoming too confining for me.´ Then in February 1840 he wrote: ´Since yesterday morning I´ve written nearly 27 pages of music (something new), of which I can say only that I was laughing and crying for joy the whole time ... what bliss it is to be able to write for the voice.´ Having exhausted the piano´s potential, Schumann was now seeking new means of expression. Creativity continued unabated: 1840 became his miraculous ´Year of Song´. By June he had completed the Liederkreis Op.24 and the cycles Myrthen, the second Liederkreis Op.39 and Dichterliebe; Frauenliebe und -leben followed in July. There were numerous further cycles, all of them modelled on Beethoven´s and Schubert´s examples; often, though, Schumann would impose a sense of unity upon the different poems not through a developing story but through similarity of mood. This is particularly true of the Op.39 Liederkreis. Schumann wrote it immediately after a visit to Clara: it was, he said, ´my most romantic music ever´.