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Young Musicians in Siena

The free concerts sponsored by Siena's Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali "Rinaldo Franci" continued this week (see my review of the first concert in this series). The winners of the Vittorio Baglioni scholarship competition presented a Tuesday concert in the school's auditorium in the Prato Sant'Agostino. After an early summer of unusually cool temperatures, the heat arrived in Italy last weekend, and the small auditorium at the top of a warren of hallways offered a lovely view of the city's rooftops but little circulation of the warm air among a full audience. The musicians who performed were all advanced students of exceptional promise, beginning with clarinetist Diego Rappuoli. The E-flat major clarinet sonata (op. 120, no. 2) is an example of Brahms's compositional tendency toward long melodic lines and frustrated harmonic motion. Rappuoli played with a mellow, amber tone, and occasional intonation issues can probably be blamed on the heat. His unnamed accompanist navigated the harmonic surprises, especially in the final movement, and she had a strong, heroic touch in the loud passages.

Soprano Claudia Ciabattini, like Rappuoli born here in Siena, offered three bel canto selections that favored her light and flexible voice. The most impressive was Rossini's Una voce poco fa, in which she managed many daring embellishments of that beloved aria. It was enlightening to have the reverse experience of Italians hearing Americans sing bel canto opera, as Ciabattini concluded with Glitter and Be Gay from Leonard Bernstein's Candide. While the English pronunciation was charmingly Italianate, Ciabattini embraced the spirit of Bernstein and left me humming those concluding coloratura melismas for the following days.

The best performance of the evening was last, with pianist Lorenzo Peri, who has a distinct musical voice unusual in someone so young. During his edgy rendition of a Brahms rhapsody (op. 79, no. 2), we saw why the large windows were closed at the start of the concert, as a bat flew in and flapped its way around the room for a minute or two. Peri, not flustered, proceeded to impress with Schubert's Klavierstück No. 2 (D. 946), a piece of many technical challenges and not much else. He seemed to connect most with the Rachmaninov selections, the first and third movements of the op. 16 Moments musicaux. As one who does not care all that much for Rachmaninov's schmaltz, I was surprisingly moved.

These free concerts in Siena conclude next Tuesday (July 24, 9:15 pm), back in the Auditorium Istituto "Rinaldo Franci," with a program of Hispanic music (Piazzola, Ravel, Ibert, Castelnuovo Tedesco, Ginastera) by flutist Sara Ceccarelli and guitarists Michele Cappelletti and Dario Vannini.


Anonymous said...

What is this pretentious drivel?

Rachmaninov is a god among composers, channeling the long Russian tradition of transforming raw emotion into music. You were not "surprisingly moved," Chuckie; Rachmaninov set out to move you and succeeded, as he does with any human being who is even remotely (as in your case) in touch with his or her emotions and soul.

Traditional musicologists and dilettante critics, among whom Classical Aristotelian quantification wins out over the inexplicable Romantic force, may be starry-eyed over Haydn and his ilk, but those of us who prefer some meat and humanity to our music will opt for Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Brahms, Shubert, etc., any day.

It would also be interesting to discover what you mean by "Schubert's Klavierstück No. 2 (D. 946), a piece of many technical challenges and not much else." This piece has a powerful beauty engendered by the juxtapostion of contrasts: the promenade-like opening, the emotional outburst following it, and the serenely floating middle section. I suggest that you listen to Maurizio Pollini's exquisite performance of this piece to learn that there is, indeed, "much else" to this piece beyond it's technical challenges.

Charles T. Downey said...

What on earth could you have sparked this comment, so long after the concert in question?

Rachmaninov is a god among composers

Well, at least one cannot question your objectivity. Thanks for reading.