Giuseppe Martucci (1856-1909) was in the vanguard of Italian composers working outside the dominant operatic tradition. Having received his first music lessons from his father, he entered the Royal College in Naples in 1868 and three years later produced his first major work, the Piano Quintet. The opus number of 45 indicates the industry with which the composer applied himself, not only in his youth but throughout his life, and it is a remarkably mature work for a 21-year-old, recognised by the award of a local but prestigious prize for composition.
Martucci’s two piano trios date from his late 20s, are cast on the grandest scale, in Schubertian dimensions with a truly Brahmsian breadth of line and spaciousness of argument. Like the Quintet they are cast in the traditional four movements, which open with a searching melody over a turbulent accompaniment, quickly ceding to the gentler development of lovely cantabile ideas: despite writing instrumentally, Martucci had a native gift for apparently natural, singing melodies. A Mendelssohnian lightness of texture lifts these trios from the occasionally heavy-handed rhetoric of the Piano Quintet. One may also hear the composer’s Neapolitan background, especially in the rustic Scherzos with their echoes of local folk music and musicians.
This new recording complements previous releases by Brilliant Classics of the piano music with which Martucci learnt his craft (BC94800) and the music for cello and piano (BC94816) which is roughly contemporary with the trios. The performers have considerable experience in this underappreciated field of unquestionably underappreciated music. Maria Semeraro is the pianist on the Brilliant Classics release of the music for cello and piano by Alfredo Casella (BC94823), and the Quartetto Noferini have made a well-received disc of chamber music by Martucci’s teacher, Giovanni Sgambati (BC94813). Together they form an impressively idiomatic partnership.
After years of comparative neglect Giuseppe Martucci is taking his rightful place as one of the most important late romantic Italian composers. His style is a happy and individual mix of Wagner and Verdi, dramatic chromatism softened by lyrical, bel canto style melodies. Martucci was a composer, conductor, teacher and excellent pianist, who made extensive European tours as a soloist. His music from his early period is written in sophisticated salon style, charming and picturesque. Later Martucci wrote more substantial works, like the two Piano Trios and Piano Quintet recorded on this 2CD, full blooded romantic music in which the virtuoso pianism is proof of Martucci’s great gift as a performer.
Excellent performances by Italian forces: pianist Maria Semeraro and the Quartetto Noferini.
Extensive liner notes in both English and Italian are included in the booklet.