Vittorio Giannini: Piano Concerto; Symphony No. 4

Vittorio Giannini: Piano Concerto; Symphony No. 4

by Daniel Spalding
     
 

With a name like Vittorio Giannini, one might imagine a late nineteenth century verismo composer with inscrutable features owing to heavy growth of beard and fiery eyes. Nevertheless, Giannini was a clean-shaven American who favored a crew cut and a suit and tie; in his youth he was quite a sharp dresser, but as his 63 years on this earth played out, Giannini's suit… See more details below

Overview

With a name like Vittorio Giannini, one might imagine a late nineteenth century verismo composer with inscrutable features owing to heavy growth of beard and fiery eyes. Nevertheless, Giannini was a clean-shaven American who favored a crew cut and a suit and tie; in his youth he was quite a sharp dresser, but as his 63 years on this earth played out, Giannini's suit gradually became a bit more rumpled and sometimes he even left the tie at home; his was reportedly an open, engaging, and exceedingly pleasant personality. Giannini was a highly respected teacher with a faculty vita that included Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, and the Curtis Institute; David Amram and John Corigliano both passed through his careful instruction. Although his Italian heritage may have played a part in such preferences, it would have taken more aptitude than just that to propel him through three consecutive fellowships at the American Academy in Rome, which he fulfilled in the early '30s. One aspect of Giannini that both defines him and has caused his name to sink into obscurity is that he had no interest whatsoever in pursuing the prevalent musical trends of his time; Giannini insisted on absolute independence of mind in this regard and for most of his life wrote sturdy, straightforward post-romantic music that audiences enjoyed but most critics ignored. In his last years, Giannini did darken his harmonic language to some extent and developed a mildly exploratory streak, but by that time the critical community had long abandoned him. Little has been heard of Giannini's music has been heard since his death in 1966; however, pianist Gabriela Imreh, conductor Daniel Spalding, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra have stepped into this gaping breach with Naxos' Giannini: Piano Concerto; Symphony No. 4, which addresses both sides of Giannini's intriguing musical personality. The "Piano Concerto" was written in 1934 and premiered by Rosalyn Tureck three years later; it is, and does, everything that an expansive, expressive, big-boned piano concerto akin to the sound of Rachmaninoff should be or do; it has memorable tunes, a broadly ambitious formal plan that keeps the music moving forward with efficiency and without discursiveness, and provides the pianist with a lot of room both to emote and to throw off some firecrackers. Imreh does so here; she is obviously passionately devoted to this concerto and puts everything into it, and Spalding -- who is Imreh's husband -- follows suit; you can feel the love in every bar of this passionate and painstaking performance. One might not fault Imreh and Spalding for feeling a sense of propriety in regard to this work; it was never published, and the score basically lost for 75 years until shortly before this recording was made. It is almost as though Giannini wrote it for them. Giannini did not number all of his seven symphonies, some of which were for band, and the band works have managed to some small extent to keep his name in the concert hall; however, Giannini's "Symphony No. 4" (1960) is a full-fledged orchestral work and in a chronological sense the sixth of his symphonies. It shows that Giannini was not altogether hostile to the developing trends of his day, but was looking for a way to work them into the fabric of his already existing style, much as Samuel Barber was in the "Piano Concerto" he wrote for John Browning around the same time. While the desire to strike a more direct connection with Barber is tempting, there is a vast difference between him and Giannini; the "Symphony No. 4" is less lyrical and emphasizes symphonic development over most other considerations, though one can definitely hear the connection between this symphony and the music of Giannini's student Nicolas Flagello. Vittorio Giannini's refusal to tow the serial line may have lost him his bid for critical acceptance and, ergo, more than a tenuous connection to posterity, and in the 1970s one might have successfully argued that this was the natural order of things. However, there is no reason at all in the years after 2000 to continue to sideline his solid, well-crafted, imaginative, and emotionally communicative music, and Imreh and Spalding deserve kudos for dragging this fine concerto and neglected symphony out of the shadows. Anyone who values the Rachmaninoff concerti should hear this Giannini effort, and that's a lot of listeners; perhaps the potential audience for this music is greater than anyone can imagine, though specialist listeners should also find considerable reward here.

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Product Details

Release Date:
01/27/2009
Label:
Naxos American
UPC:
0636943935224
catalogNumber:
8559352
Rank:
164881

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Piano Concerto  - Vittorio Giannini  - Gabriela Imreh  -  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra  - Daniel Spalding
  2. Symphony No. 4  - Vittorio Giannini  -  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra  - Daniel Spalding

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