WORKS: Prelude, Toccata and Gigue, Op. 61; Three Romances, Op. 49; Three Scherzos, Op. 53; Three Pieces, Op. 64; Theme and Variations, Op. 58
PERFORMER: Francesco Caramiello (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 897 DDD
Giuseppe Martucci was born in 1856 (two years before Puccini). His importance rests largely on his work as a conductor who opened up post-revolution Italy to a range of Romantic and modern influences (notably French and German). He anticipated the work of the Malipiero generation in revising and popularising the neglected Baroque.
No one could deny the beauty of his lovely La canzona dei Ricordi for soprano and orchestra (also on ASV), or a handful of finely scored orchestral works. The piano music here, written in his early to mid-twenties, reveals a flair (an obsession?) for scherzo-type writing and calls for much technical brilliance, which Francesco Caramiello supplies.
I can’t say I detect much of an individual voice: too many pieces here feel like overspun Czerny studies – rhetoric sans substance, Liszt without the imagination, Busoni or Alkan without the weight. His poetic ‘Romances’ are thin Victorian, his storms the stuff of teacups.
Caramiello rather reinforces this feel: he does a dutiful, strait-laced, rather cerebral job, but rarely gets far below the surface. His barcarolle doesn’t rock, his unfluid romances wouldn’t hook me, his rubatos tend to be unrevealing. A youthful performance, then: sparkling at times, but tending to emptiness. Perhaps he does the best with what he’s got (the A major and D flat Scherzos, for example). And the next in ASV’s series may yet unveil a few gems. The acoustic is appropriately drawing-room-like. Roderic Dunnett