Piano Concerto and Symphony No. 4/Giannini

June 19, 2009

GianniniHere is yet another unknown composer I recently discovered through Naxos and their American Classic series of recordings. Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966) was born into a musical family with his mother, a singer, being the primary encouragement to pursue a musical career. He attended the Milan Conservatory, graduated from Julliard, and while he never wrote for the silver screen he very easily could have, having taught film composers David Amram (The Manchurian Candidate), John Corigliano (The Red Violin), and Thomas Pasatieri (Orchestration for Thomas Newman) at the Manhattan School of Music.

Classified as a “neo-romantic,” I think you’ll find that his Piano Concerto, composed in 1935 should be placed in the romantic category. To my knowledge this is the first recording of the work since it was premiered in New York City in 1937. The addicting theme is used throughout the first movement and one could easily be reminded of Rachmaninoff for the grandiose style, which it is arranged. Bold flashy scales and additional thematic material are the order of the day. At 21+ minutes it is given the opportunity to be fully developed. The second movement is an Adagio, a variation on the first movement theme but a highly seductive romantic variation that could easily take its place on any compilation of Adagio movements. Delicate is the key word for this movement. The third movement returns to a theme from the first movement, introduces a new one, has some very nice scherzo passages, and a fugue which seems out of place at first but upon further listening is right at home in the movement. While it was written at a very early age (22) this is not a student work and shows real maturity in many parts. While I have nothing to compare the performance of Gabriela Imreh with, I got the feeling that she felt right at home with the concerto and understood the piece quite well.

Written approximately 25 years later Giannini’s 4th Symphony (of 7) expresses thematic, modern, and romantic material as well as a sampling of dissonance. One could easily conjure up visions of silver screen situations. Like the piano concerto this is the first recording of the material since the Juillard Orchestra premiered it nearly 50 years ago. The key to this work is the superb orchestration that Giannini was able to achieve and the fine well rehearsed performance of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Spalding. Recommended.

Produced and engineered by Tim Handley

Naxos CD# 8.559352

Daniel Spalding conducts the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Gabriela Imreh, Piano (Tracks 1-3)

Track Listing:

Piano Concerto

1… Sostenuto-Allegro moderato (21:24)

2… Adagio (8:35)

3… Burlesca: Allegro vigoroso (11:13)

Symphony No. 4

4… Allegro con passione (8:40)

5… Sustention e calmo (7:33)

6… Allegro (7:09)

Total Time is 64:34

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