GIANNINI CHAMBER MUSICQuintet for Piano and Strings
Trio for Piano and Strings
MANCHESTER MUSIC FESTIVAL
Joana Genova, Violin I
Stefan Milenkovich, Violin II
Ariel Rudiakov, Viola
Ani Aznavoorian, Violoncello
Adam Neiman, Piano
World Premiere Recordings
“[Giannini's] music was memorable and finely crafted... Now we have a very nicely performed volume of his chamber music by Musicians of the Manchester Music Festival. The two works are unapologetically romantic. Yet thematically and in terms of structure they are excellently wrought. It's music that sounds more like Brahms than Berio, of course, but if you disregard your expectations you hear some very fine music in full romantic flush. I am glad to have it.”
Gapplegate Classical Review [October 2014]
“[Giannini's] Piano Quintet stunned me. I can call it only "magnificent." It has the oceanic roll of Brahms at his best and a lush texture... The Piano Trio [has] that same feeling of being carried along by a mighty Atlantic current... Giannini's enormous technical skill impresses me no end. Almost every facet of the composer's art stands out at the highest level: the invention of beautiful, memorable ideas; the writing for each individual instrument; the control over textural variety; the creation of argument or narrative... The Musicians of the Manchester Festival give exceptional – oh, what the heck – great performances of both scores. Each makes so much of his or her moments in the spotlight while observing perfect chamber-music courtesy that it makes little sense to single anybody out... this album could well end up on my Ten Best of the Year list.”
Steve Schwartz, ClassicalNet [September 2014]
FANFARE 2013 WANT LIST [Merlin Patterson]
“The three-movement Piano Quintet is a big, heart-swelling work. It’s romantic with absolutely no concessions to modernity - utterly saturated in sentiment and a hair’s breadth from Korngold. The music on many occasions inhabits the world of Fauré’s First Piano Quartet, the Chausson Concert and the Atlantic-Celtic works of Ropartz, Koechlin and Cras. It’s gorgeous stuff that you need to hear. The central Adagio is magically spun. The final Allegro is triumphantly Rachmaninovian, crowned with heroism. The Trio is also in three intensely neo-romantic movements. It, too, has something of the epic hothouse atmosphere of the Quintet but if anything leans more towards kindly classical models provided by Dvořák. It ends with a wink and the utmost ingenuity… Well done MSR. Two no-compromise neo-romantic chamber works utterly saturated in intense sentiment and lyricism. The Quintet is a glorious piece - a real discovery.”
Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International [January 2013]
"Vittorio Giannini is not a name that readily comes to mind in the sphere of mainstream classical music, but now is a time to become better acquainted with this independent and adventuresome composer of the Neoromantic age. Giannini parted ways with the Neoclassical lineage by holding onto vestiges of the Romantic movement, putting his own stamp of individualism onto all of his compositions.
Allegro con spirito from the Quintet utilizes a soulfully gray 5/4 time which Ariel Rudiakov describes on viola with indelible moodiness. Akin to the Andantino from Debussy’s String Quartet in G Minor, Ani Aznavoorian ushers in attenuated impressions during the Adagio soon to be followed by Genova and Milenkovich on violin. The music intensifies with Far Eastern spiciness by Adam Neiman on piano complete with lush and contemplative scales and tinkling melody lines, at times giving glimpses of Erich Korngold’s cinematic perspective. Piano and strings prey upon each other in immediate spots of the Allegro that take turns with an intervening, restless march-like stampede grounded in throbbing tension. The music is dense and labored.
The Trio for Piano and Strings presents lighter fare compared to its predecessor, one that embraces lyrical niceties, sweeping lines and restraints, giving the non troppo nomenclature bonafide meaning. The movement takes in a deep breath of juxtaposition with optimistic finishes. Stefan Milenkovich’s violin picks up the emotive fervor and dramatic sadness in Andante triste, and this teems with hopeful magnificence. The thematic dialogue never gets away from us in the Allegro non troppo, con eleganza. The final three chords strike like an impish ha-ha. It makes us reminisce about what we just heard and about Vittorio Giannini’s contributions to classical music.
This world-premiere recording deserves special recognition not only for the momentous occasion but also for the impressive interpretation of this intriguing music.”
Christie Grimstad, ConcertoNet – November 2012
"This world-premiere recording of two chamber masterpieces by Philadelphia native son Vittorio Giannini definitely rates a “Wow!” When I aired his compelling Piano Quintet on New Releases a couple of months back, I found myself continually turning up the volume in the studio as each ear-catching phrase poured forth… The Manchester Music Festival has unearthed two remarkable chamber works by Giannini, both composed in 1931. This is serious music—make no mistake—but it’s also downright gorgeous and emotionally moving, with singing melodies, lush textures, and propulsive cohesion. The Trio is Brahmsian in its aching melancholy, while the chromaticism, cinematic sweep, and driving rhythms of the Quintet conjure Dvorak and Rachmaninoff. The performances are utterly passionate and convincing. As the musicians themselves say, this music deserves a place in the repertoire. I cannot recommend this recording too highly. “
Marc Pinto, WRTI Radio – 26 July, 2012
“Italian-American Vittorio Giannini isn’t much remembered or played these days. Too bad. He was a gifted melodist and fine craftsman who wrote symphonies, concertos, and operas in a modern-but-traditional idiom that began with late-19th Century harmonic language and progressed to the more expanded tonality and somewhat leaner textures of Hanson, Barber, and Piston (as of course they were progressing themselves). But like them he remained a romantic in his expressive aims… The two chamber pieces on this superbly played-and-recorded MSR are early works (from the early 1930s) and show Giannini at his most effusive and fervent. The 34-minute, three-movement Piano Quintet is the prize here: full-throated, packed with glorious melodies that work up to passionate climaxes, cunningly crafted and idiomatically laid-out for the instruments, commanding in its youthful exuberance. The harmonic idiom and thematic inflections bring to mind Puccini more than anyone else I can think of; occasional touches of exoticism and modality—and the prevailing high level of emotional intensity— recall Bloch. The pianism owes much to Rachmaninoff; calmer moments might have come from Fauré; the flair and sweeping power owe something to Respighi. Yet the piece doesn’t sound like anyone else… Three decades I’ve known and loved this resplendent quintet (from non-commercial recordings as well as the score), and now at last I can proclaim that here it is for all to hear and enjoy. Yes, there are more up-to-date, more original, more profound, and more “important” piano quintets than this one, but if there is another more sheerly beautiful, I have yet to hear it… [Giannini’s Trio and the Quintet] share a similar language and romantic ethos… thank the superlative musicians of the Manchester Music Festival who have brought it into the recorded repertoire with such magniloquence and devotion.”
Lehman, American Record Guide – September/October 2012
“Giannini was a strong advocate of melody as an inspirational genesis of music. “Those composers who make a point of avoiding melody are those who, in most instances, couldn’t [write one] if they wanted to, because it never comes to them.” Indeed, his whole output, which includes seven symphonies, the chamber works on this disc, and other concert music, display prolific melodic content. The tranquil opening theme of the Piano Quintet (1931) is a beautiful example of Giannini’s lyrical invention, lusciously performed by violist and Manchester Music Festival’s Artistic Director Ariel Rudiakov. Even more impressive is the exquisitely luminous adagio, where Giannini seamlessly passes melodies from one instrument to another. It’s the highlight of this world premiere disc. Even the allegro, offering welcome contrast with a restless beginning and agitated interludes, contains moments of tonal respite. The Piano Quintet is certainly a work that’s worth discovery for chamber music lovers.
The Piano Trio (1933) continues Giannini’s exploration of sumptuous romantic textures, passionate exclamations, and ripe melodies that could be written a century earlier. But that doesn’t make it less attractive to those longing for tender musical respite in an often frenetic world. Especially magical is the affectionate and heartfelt slow movement. But, wait! The final movement is edgy and quite angry – ending with a dissonant Ivesian chord that’s akin to a pungent salad at the end of a meaty meal. The musicians of the Manchester (New Hampshire) Music Festival play with aplomb and the sound is resplendent – made in the renowned Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, New York. This is a disc for lovers of conservative chamber music looking for new territory to explore.”
[ * * * * ] Robert Moon, Audiophile Audition - August 2012
"[Giannini] is routinely either praised or pilloried for a Romantic vocabulary that was rooted in the 19th century. He deserves better... The Piano Trio is a delight from beginning to end... The sound, recorded in the fabled Troy Savings bank Music Hall in Troy in magical."
Laurence Vittes, Gramophone - August 2012
“Two parts Rachmaninov to one of MacDowell with a splash of Puccini would seem to be the ingredients for the neoromantic creations of Vittorio Giannini. An American composer of Italian ancestry, we've told you about a couple of his orchestral works, and here's a sampling of his chamber music. Both selections on this new MSR Classics release are world premiere recordings.
These masterfully crafted pieces are the work of a highly trained musician who spent four years at the Milan Conservatory, and went on to get his graduate degree at Juilliard. He was also a gifted tunesmith as evidenced right from the start of his three-movement piano quintet, whose opening allegro begins with a couple of winsome melodies. These are the subject of a consummate developmental discussion among the five instrumentalists. The movement then ends in a stirring recapitulative coda forcefully recalling the opening measures. The adagio is a free-form cantilena set to another knockout Giannini tune. It opens in a state of resigned melancholy, becomes increasingly anxiety-ridden, and builds to a dramatic virtuosic crescendo. This fades as haunting bits return in a dreamy closing section whose last measures end the movement with a resigned afterthought. The driving final allegro opens with a nervous foreboding motif followed by a vivacious cantering idea and a rapturously sinuous countermelody. All three are varied sequentially, reappearing in rondo fashion with a powerful concluding coda.
The piano trio, is also in three-movements with an opening allegro again having a wealth of thematic material. But unlike the one beginning the quintet there are some highly chromatic passages which give the music an impressionistic twist. A romantic masterpiece, the andante that follows is a theme and variations based on another attractive melody. You'll find it goes by all too quickly! The final allegro is a rondo with a curious recurring bipartite theme of "Jeckyll and Hyde" character. More specifically, it's first half is a lovely caressing tune, and the second a wild-eyed darting motif. The two undergo a series of clever tandem transformations as they reappear throughout the movement, which ends like something out of Charles Ives. The composer must have had a good sense of humor!
Our performers are all associated with the Manchester Music Festival, and couldn't be better! Violinists Joana Genova and Stefan Milenkovich, along with violist Ariel Rudiakov, cellist Ani Aznavoorian and pianist Adam Neiman deliver an enthusiastic lush account of the quintet. Milenkovich, Aznavoorian and Neiman remain on stage to give us an equally thrilling rendition of the trio.
Made in one of the finest American venues, the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, New York, the recordings are superb. They project a generous soundstage in an acoustic with a reverberation that adds an appropriate lushness to these romantic scores, while keeping the instrumentalists well-focused. The piano is beautifully captured with an articulately percussive but well-rounded tone. It's ideally balanced against the strings, which come across as vibrantly silky.”
Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found [CLOFO.com Y120620] – June 2012
PROGRAM NOTESGIANNINI: QUINTET FOR PIANO AND STRINGS
Years ago, I discovered Vittorio Giannini’s work in my capacity as a conductor. Very taken with his Concerto Grosso for string orchestra and aware of his orchestral and vocal output, I became curious to know if he had written chamber music. Prolific as he was, I came to learn that in fact a great deal had been written, the bulk of which remains unpublished.
The three-movement Quintet for Piano and Strings is, in my view, a masterpiece. The opening of the first movement presents itself with a lyrically flowing viola solo in 5/4 time, lightly punctuated by chords in the piano. Giannini takes this opening theme and continually re-purposes it throughout the movement, ultimately building to a sonorous climax. The second movement begins with intimate, contemplative soli; first from the cello then viola, before moving on to fantastic realms of sound. This movement visits many styles, which blend uniformly into a distinctive compositional voice. In the
louder, faster sections, the musical imagery conjured is panoramic, even cinematic. The third and final movement utilizes something of an A-B-A structure, starting off with a restless, flowing motive that alights briefly to a resolution, changing then to a driving, motor-like music. Interrupted by a broad, sweeping middle section reminiscent of the second movement, the motor rhythm then resumes, driving relentlessly to a wild finish.
The journey of discovery, performance and ultimately recording of these works has been truly special and fulfilling. We hope that the Piano Quintet and Trio will take their rightful places in the concert repertoire. [Ariel Rudiakov]
GIANNINI: PIANO TRIO
From the outset of the experience of learning and recording Giannini’s unknown Piano Trio, my colleagues and I were impressed by the unapologetically lush romanticism of the work. The first movement is rich, powerful, and dynamic, and Giannini makes use of the full dynamic range of all three instruments, with mood shifts alternating between placidly lyrical and passionately extroverted. The second movement is unexpectedly poignant, centering around a deeply-felt melody that undergoes numerous transformations ranging from hushed to ecstatic. This movement is undoubtedly a gem; the romantically-bent listener will certainly be emotionally moved by this gorgeous work. The third movement caught us off-guard in a different way: the simplicity and innocence of the opening material is so far-removed from the dark, powerful textures that contrast it throughout the movement that, at first, we didn’t quite know what to make of it! With repeated run-throughs and practice we came to interpret these polar extremes in mood as Giannini’s unique way of expressing cynicism and humor, and we grew to love this movement with all of its quirkiness. The last three chords, for instance, never ceased to elicit raised-eyebrows and smirks from the three of us, throughout our experience of recording the work, yet we did so with a feeling admiration and appreciation. This Piano Trio is a wonderful, refreshing, unique work so full of life and passion that we feel it is an excellent addition to the abundant repertoire of the Piano Trio genre. [Adam Neiman]
MANCHESTER MUSIC FESTIVAL
ARIEL RUDIAKOV, Artistic Director
What is now known as the Manchester Music Festival (MMF) began in 1974. Violinist Carroll Glenn and her husband, pianist Eugene List (both deceased) were the founders of a summer chamber music study program for college-age string players and pianists. Cellist Michael M. Rudiakov, along with his wife Judith, took over the organization in 1985, bringing it back from the brink of collapse and transforming it over the next 15 years into a year-round performing and teaching organization. Today, the MMF has its own headquarters, a robust music education program and a full slate of summer
and fall/winter concerts. The Festival’s mission prioritizes equally between teaching and performing, and its ongoing activities have led it well beyond the boundaries of most organizations similar to it. It is likely that, in the future, MMF will be renamed the Manchester Music Centre, to more accurately reflect its standing in the community, while better communicating the truth of its institutional gravitas. The five musicians performing on this recording are faculty or guest artists of the MMF. [www.mmfvt.org ]
PROGRAMVITTORIO GIANNINI (1903-1966)
QUINTET for Piano and Strings
Allegro con spirito
TRIO for Piano and Strings
Allegro non troppo
Allegro non troppo, con eleganza