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WORKS: Piano Concerto in G minor; Cola di Rienzo; Berceuse-rêverie, Op. 42/2 (orch. Massenet)
PERFORMER: Francesco Caramiello (piano); Nuremberg PO/Fabrizio Ventura
The Piano Concerto in G minor, composed between 1878 and 1880, is the most celebrated work by the Italian composer Giovanni Sgambati, one of that neglected late 19th-century school which also included Martucci. It is a big piece, cast in three movements, two big outer ones (the first much bigger than the third) and a central, rather unusual Romance characterised by the soloist’s gentle hiccuping rhythm. For the most part the challenging solo part is written in heroic-lyric manner, with debts to both Schumann and Liszt. In its formal ambitions the composition owes probably more to Brahms than anyone else. Like Brahms (or for that matter Beethoven), Sgambati tends to work with small motivic cells, though a certain Italianate openness of spirit and a strong individual harmonic identity permeate his textures.


The work is played excellently by Francesco Caramiello, while under the baton of Fabrizio Ventura the Nuremberg Philharmonic (Christian Thielemann is a former chief conductor) shows itself to be an instrument to be reckoned with. The two fillers are substantial. First, there is what is probably Sgambati’s first completed orchestral work, the melodramatic Cola di Rienzo Overture of 1866, rediscovered recently by Ventura himself, and then Massenet’s orchestration of the lovely, concise, but again rather Brahmsian Berceuse-rêverie, Op. 42/2, originally for piano. Stephen Pettitt