PIZZETTI: Rondò VenezianoPrelude to Another Day.  Three Symphonic Preludes for "Oedipus the King." La Pisanella.
BBC Scottish Symphony Orch/Osmo V”nsk” cond.
HYPERION  CDA 67084  (F) (DDD)  TT:  76:03

Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968) was one of the more adventuresome  young Italian composers of his time; his contemporaries included Italo Montemezzi, Riccardo Pick-Mangiagalli, Gian-Francesco Malipiero, and Alfredo Casella (see review of the latters' La Giara  on this site). Born into a musical family, young  Ildebrando's primary interest was theatre.  By the time he reached his teens he had written and presented several plays.  When fifteen, he entered the Parma Musical Conservatory where he studied composition displaying great interest in early Italian music as well as avant-garde works by composers of his time.  In 1914 he co-founded Dissonanza, a journal of modern music. Before his graduation in 1901 he had written a symphony, a cantata, sacred works and some chamber music. Later he wrote music primarily for the theatre, gaining fame as well as an author, his writings including a biography of Paganini and an historical and critical study, The Music of Greece, a country that always fascinated him and inspired several of his works.

Arturo Toscanini championed music of young Italian composers at the beginning  of the century; Respighi in particular benefited from this partisan treatment. The Maestro also favored Pizzetti and selected an excerpt from La Pisanella as one of his first La Scala recordings (December 2, 1920).  Pizzetti's music was also performed by Nathan Milstein, Yehudi Menuhin and Tullio Serafin but in spite of this strong advocacy has generally been neglected.  Hyperion's new CD helps correct this situation offering a wide range of works beginning with Rondò Veneziano, written in 1929 and premiered in New York the following year with Arturo Toscanini on the podium.  Rondò is dedicated to the composer's eldest son, and is a "Venetian impression" in three parts full of  inventive melody lasting more than 23 minutes.  Prelude to Another Day, written in 1952, is one of Pizzetti's last orchestral works. Somber in nature, it reflects on the death of Giovanini Tebaldini, who, as director of the Conservatoire, had been Pizzetti's mentor. In 1904 Pizzetti wrote incidental music for a production of  Sophocles' Oedipus the King in Milan; two decades later the composer returned to this music and used it in his Three Symphonic Preludeswhich well convey the play's tragic atmosphere.

In 1913 Pizzetti composed incidental music for La Pisanella, a theatre work by Gabriele d'Annunzio, first performed in Paris that same year.  This colorful score was very well received and Pizzetti prepared a five-movement concert suite ending with Pisanella's  brilliant "Dance of the Sparrow-Hawk."  I first became acquainted with this music through an early Decca 2-disc 78 rpm set with Carlo Zecchi conducting the London Philharmonic (D.K. 1689/90). The new Hyperion contains all five movements. For the Pizzetti initiate, this is a good place to start. 

The BBC Scottish Orchestra is in superb form. V”nsk” obviously cherishes this imaginative colorful music, and the Chandos sound is superb.

R.E.B. (Oct. 2000)