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The Cello At The Montecassino Abbey

The Cello At The Montecassino Abbey

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Just off the main road between Rome and Naples, the Benedictine abbey at Monte Cassino can date its foundation back to AD529, though it gained a more tragic renown during the Second World War as the site of exceptionally heavy Allied bombing in order to break Nazi defensive lines. The abbey’s surviving library of manuscripts (theological, musical and others) was mostly moved to Rome during postwar reconstruction, but local archives mined for this release have turned up a treasure trove of pieces which testify to a lively culture of chamber music at the abbey during the 19th century. Several of the brothers must have been dedicated cellists of considerable gifts to judge from the surviving scores. They include a collection of six cello duets by Valentino Bertoja (1757-after 1820), a composer from the Veneto region to the north; the Duet No 6 opens this collection.

The two most prominent monk musicians featured here are Padre Placido Abela (1814-1876), originally from Siracusa in Sicily, and Padre Mauro Liberatore (1810-1879) from L’Aquila. It is Liberatore who arranged both sacred and secular pieces to give a starring role to the cello, such as ‘Casta Diva’ from Bellini’s Norma, and a then-popular aria from Mercadante’s Il giuramento. Abela composed ‘Concerti armonici’ for a trio of piano, harmonium and cello, and then a part for the string instrument in the liturgical inserts of his Missa solennis. Other composers wrote pieces specifically for Liberatore to play, such as the Barcarola by the Sicilian cellist and composer Domenico Laboccetta (1823-1896), and two composers local to Monte Cassino, Pietro Ray (1773-1857) and Domenico Corigliano (1770-1838).

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 2
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Brilliant Classics
    • UPC/Barcode: 5028421967134
    • Item Number: BRI96713