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Perosi: Piano Quintets Nos. 1 & 2; String Trio No. 2

Perosi: Piano Quintets Nos. 1 & 2; String Trio No. 2

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Puccini once said, ‘there is more music in Perosi’s head than in mine and Mascagni’s put together’. Priest-composer Lorenzo Perosi achieved international celebrity by the late 1890s for his sacred music, and he also composed a fine selection of chamber works that are little known today. Perosi’s Piano Quintets have a fresh and spontaneous feel, even though they were written while he grieved the loss of his brother. Combining bold rhythms and solemn spiritual depth, these works along with the Second String Trio are all respectful of tradition while representing an exploration of new paths unique in Italian music of the time.

Review:

There are precedents for priest-composers and to that small list can now be added the Italian, Piedmont-born Lorenzo Perosi. Among some 4000 works thirty of his are chamber works. There are also numerous (if not a lavish number) orchestral works including symphonic pieces dedicated to Italian cities such as Roma, Venezia, Firenze, Messina, Tortona, Milano, Torino and Genova. Oratorios (which Perosi referred to as “my operas”) are there, as are a piano concerto (1916), a brace of violin concertos and a clarinet concerto (1928).

The chamber works include three string trios, sixteen string quartets and several suites. Among four piano quintets are the two we hear on this disc. Matteo Bevilacqua and Roma Tre Orchestra Ensemble give the sense that they hold nothing back. They respond spiritedly and with enthusiastic virility to his romantic chamber style and the qualities of the recording accentuate the message. Everything channels a convincingly vigorous inventive style tracing back to Schumann and as far forwards as Foulds, Catoire and Medtner.

All three works are in three movements and each spans about 20 minutes. The notes by Arturo Saccheti (in English and Italian) complement this unfamiliar music and he assures us that these three pieces were written while Perosi was afflicted with grief over the death of his brother Cardinal Carlo Perosi in 1930. Even so they are not lachrymose but speak of touching affinity and a deep dive into the vigour of life and touching romance. There is more of the latter than the former.

The First Quintet sings in sighing and glinting pearlescence with a middle movement that mediates motion and meditation. The finale is all confident flourishes and triumph. The Second Quintet smiles and chaffs with lots of scurrying action and a second movement that cradles an affecting melody before returning to the busily motoric and ever so slightly furious finale. The Second Trio (strings only) has about it a neo-Mendelssohnian melodic way that is often gentle but sometimes haughty.

Given the dates, these are old-fashioned works but not caught in the jet of pastiche. They lack nothing in a life that pushes at the boundaries and which engages the listener. They seem impatient with anything suggesting the religiose or crustily academic. Listen and you will find affinities with other Italians of the pre-Second War years.

--MusicWeb International (Rob Barnett)

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    • UPC/Barcode: 747313437573
    • Item Number: 8574375