Italian Cello Sonatas

Italian Cello Sonatas
Composer Alfredo Casella, Alfredo Piatti, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, Eliodoro Sollima, Francesco Cilea, Giuseppe Martucci, Ildebrando Pizzetti, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Mario Pilati
Artist Various artists
Format 6 CD
Cat. number 97278
EAN code 5028421972787
Release June 2024

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About this release

The origins of the cello as a solo instrument, and of the kind of solo repertoire compiled in the present set, lie in the gradual emancipation of the cello from its function as a primarily supportive, accompanying bass. This process began in the second half of the 17th century, firstly in Naples, and then farther afield across the Italian provinces and principalities. Yet the cello would remain an unequal peer of the violin, expressively as well as technically, through the course of the 18th century, with low-string virtuosity centred instead on the increasingly obsolete viola da gamba (Marin Marais in Paris and then Carl Friedrich Abel in London).

By the time of the ‘Ottocento’ (19th century), opera was the dominant force in Italian musical culture, with bel canto composers such as Rossini and Donizetti creating a public appetite for opera that eclipsed achievements by Italy’s musical sons in other genres. Some of these composers who focused their energies instead on instrumental music, swimming against the operatic tide, remained in their native land, while others found a home (or were forced to find one) abroad.

Giuseppe Martucci (1856-1909) is one who stayed. A gifted pianist, he bypassed the operatic path and wrote music with a kind of fluent synthesis of Italian lyricism and German, dialectic approach to form that reached an early peak in his Cello Sonata of 1880. Yet Martucci, as a teacher of composition in Bologna and then Naples, urged the teenaged Alfredo Casella (1883-1947) to study abroad. Casella’s father was a cellist and his mother a pianist. Several other close relatives were cellists, and his godfather was Alfredo Piatti. It makes sense therefore that, returning from his studies in Paris with Gabriel Fauré, he would unite cello and piano with a thorough grasp of their contrasting idioms.


Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968) is among the few composers in this set whose entire career centred in Italy, and he wrote a substantial body of instrumental music. While Respighi may be the composer most associated outside Italy with Mussolini’s fascist regime, he received no state commissions – unlike both Casella and Pizzetti. Many Jewish Italians such as Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968), on the other hand, would end up exiled on the other side of the world (Hollywood in his case), but before the war Castelnuovo-Tedesco succeeded in reinventing an essentially Romantic model (of both form and harmony) for his own time with his Cello Sonata Op.50 of 1928. From seven years earlier, Pizzetti’s Sonata of 1921 is a more gloomy, even tortured affair.

The Cello Sonata of Francesco Cilea (1866-1950), while unmistakably cast as an ‘operatic’ work from its opening solo, features a protagonist scarcely burdened by the existential angst to be found in comparable works from northern Europe. But then, like most of the above sonatas, it is a youthful composition, written in 1888 before hits such as La Gioconda established Cilea at the forefront of the verismo movement. Like Cilea, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876–1948) is known for his operas (in his case, comic operas), but unlike Cilea’s cello sonata, Wolf-Ferrari’s Opus 30 dates from the final three years of his life and belongs to a mature output of instrumental music that is recently being recovered from the shadow of his operatic achievements.

In their different ways, Cilea, Pizzetti, Casella and Wolf-Ferrari all defy a separation of instrumental and vocal writing into opposing abstract and evocative poles, their cello sonatas capitalising, as did countless others, on associations of the cello’s timbre with singers and its capacity for heroism in the hands of a new generation of celebrity soloists. Foremost among those celebrated virtuoso cellists was Alfredo Piatti (1822-1901), aforementioned godfather to Casella. While he produced many trifles and showpieces to display his artistry to his adoring public in London, he was most proud of the set of six sonatas included in this set. He wrote them over an 11-year period starting in 1885, during the last period of his creative life. Born in the north-Italian city of Bergamo and trained at the conservatoire in Milan, Piatti was another figure who found fame and fortune outside his native country. In 1844 he made his first appearance in the English capital and soon settled there, playing both as a soloist and in one of the first celebrity string quartets.

The Cello Sonata by Mario Pilati (1903-1938) is another product of the fast-moving 1920s, formed in a Romantic tradition but inflected – like the music of Casella, Pizzetti and Castelnuovo-Tedesco – by contemporary trends in impressionism and futurism. From the next generation of composers, the Cello Sonata composed in 1948 by Eliodoro Sollima (1926-2000) fluently incorporates the kind of modal harmonies and cross-rhythms adopted by the likes of Bartók and Janáček from the folk traditions of their own cultures.

- The Brilliant Classics series ‘ITALIAN ROMANTICS’ pays tribute to the rich heritage of instrumental (as opposed to vocal, operatic) music by Italian composers in the Romantic/Late-Romantic era.
- This comprehensive 6-CD set presents cello sonatas by Wolf-Ferrari, Cilea, Pizzetti, Martucci, Pilati, Sollima, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Pilati and Casella. A generous survey of full-blooded romantic music, often rooted in German Romanticism but always ablaze with Mediterranean passion and warmth.
- Played by excellent Italian cellists and pianists, with great affinity for the tonal language of their compatriots.

Track list

Disk 1

  1. Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Cello Sonata in G Major, Op. 30: I. Allegro tranquillo
  2. Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Cello Sonata in G Major, Op. 30: II. Largo
  3. Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Cello Sonata in G Major, Op. 30: III. Allegro
  4. Francesco Cilea: Cello Sonata in D Major, Op. 38: I. Allegro moderato
  5. Francesco Cilea: Cello Sonata in D Major, Op. 38: II. Alla romanza. Largo doloroso
  6. Francesco Cilea: Cello Sonata in D Major, Op. 38: III. Allegro animato
  7. Ildebrando Pizzetti: Cello Sonata in F Major: I. Largo
  8. Ildebrando Pizzetti: Cello Sonata in F Major: II. Molto concitato e angoscioso
  9. Ildebrando Pizzetti: Cello Sonata in F Major: III. Stanco e triste – Largo

Disk 2

  1. Giuseppe Martucci: Cello Sonata in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 52: I. Allegro giusto
  2. Giuseppe Martucci: Cello Sonata in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 52: II. Scherzo. Allegro molto – Trio. Allegretto
  3. Giuseppe Martucci: Cello Sonata in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 52: III. Intermezzo. Andantino flebile
  4. Giuseppe Martucci: Cello Sonata in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 52: IV. Allegro
  5. Giuseppe Martucci: Tre Pezzi, Op. 69: I. Moderato
  6. Giuseppe Martucci: Tre Pezzi, Op. 69: II. Andante
  7. Giuseppe Martucci: Tre Pezzi, Op. 69: III. Allegro
  8. Giuseppe Martucci: Due Romanze, Op. 72: I. Andantino con moto
  9. Giuseppe Martucci: Due Romanze, Op. 72: II. Moderato
  10. Giuseppe Martucci: Romanza Ttranscribed by the Author from Melodia, Op. 71): I. Allegretto

Disk 3

  1. Mario Pilati: Cello Sonata in A Minor: I. Moderato mosso
  2. Mario Pilati: Cello Sonata in A Minor: II. Tema con variazioni
  3. Mario Pilati: Cello Sonata in A Minor: III. Animato
  4. Eliodoro Sollima: Cello Sonata: I. Lento (recitativo) – Allegro viva
  5. Eliodoro Sollima: Cello Sonata: II. Andante molto espressivo
  6. Eliodoro Sollima: Cello Sonata: III. Perpetuum mobile – Allegro con spirito
  7. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Cello Sonata, Op. 50: I. Arioso e sereno
  8. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Cello Sonata, Op. 50: II. Arietta con variazioni – Allegretto, grazioso e un poco malinconico
  9. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Cello Sonata, Op. 50: III. Vivacemente
  10. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Cello Sonata, Op. 50: IV. Dolente ma con fierezza
  11. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Cello Sonata, Op. 50: V. Rustico
  12. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Cello Sonata, Op. 50: VI. Largo e pomposo
  13. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Cello Sonata, Op. 50: VII. Energico e ben ritmato

Disk 4

  1. Alfredo Casella: Cello Sonata No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 8: I. Allegro assai
  2. Alfredo Casella: Cello Sonata No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 8: II. Adagio
  3. Alfredo Casella: Cello Sonata No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 8: III. Allegro ma non troppo
  4. Alfredo Casella: Cello Sonata No. 2 in C Major, Op. 45: I. preludio. largo molto e sostenuto
  5. Alfredo Casella: Cello Sonata No. 2 in C Major, Op. 45: II. Bourée. Allegro molto vivace e scherzando
  6. Alfredo Casella: Cello Sonata No. 2 in C Major, Op. 45: III. Largo
  7. Alfredo Casella: Cello Sonata No. 2 in C Major, Op. 45: IV. Rondo. Allegro molto vivace, quasi giga
  8. Alfredo Casella: Notturno
  9. Alfredo Casella: Tarantella

Disk 5

  1. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 1 in C Major, Op. 28: I. Allegro
  2. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 1 in C Major, Op. 28: II. Andantino
  3. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 1 in C Major, Op. 28: III. Presto
  4. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 1 in C Major, Op. 28: IV. Agitato vivace
  5. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 29: I. Lento-Allegro spiritoso
  6. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 29: II. Adagio Lento
  7. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 29: III. Allegretto moderato (variazioni del 1 tempo)
  8. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 29: IV. Presto ma non troppo
  9. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 3 in F Major, Op. 30: I. Allegro energico
  10. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 3 in F Major, Op. 30: II. Romanza
  11. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 3 in F Major, Op. 30: III. Finale- allegro ma non troppo

Disk 6

  1. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 4 in G Major, Op. 31 iIdillica: I. Allegro assai moderato
  2. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 4 in G Major, Op. 31 iIdillica: II. Intermezzo-Vivo ed agitato
  3. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 4 in G Major, Op. 31 iIdillica: III. Allegro ma tranquillo
  4. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 5 in A Minor, Op. 32: I. Introduzione largo- Allegro
  5. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 5 in A Minor, Op. 32: II. Intermezzo-Adagio
  6. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 5 in A Minor, Op. 32: III. Allegro vivo
  7. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 6 in E Minor, Op. 33: I. Allegro non troppo
  8. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 6 in E Minor, Op. 33: II. Andante religioso
  9. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 6 in E Minor, Op. 33: III. Canone
  10. Alfredo Piatti: Cello Sonata No. 6 in E Minor, Op. 33: IV. Vivo