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Friday, March 17, 2017

Martucci, Music for String Quartet, Piano Trios, Piano Quintet, Maria Semeraro, Quartetto Noferini

The absolute predominence of opera began to balance off with the growth of instrumental music after the turn of last century in Italy. One of the most interesting composers in this development was Giuseppe Martucci (1856-1909). Pianist Maria Semerano and the Quartetto Noferini give us a judicious sampling of his chamber music on the recent 2-CD set Music for String Quartet, Piano Trios, Piano Quintet (Brilliant 2CD 94968).

Martucci managed to avoid the opera-producing hegemony of his times in Italy, embarking on a career as piano virtuoso, then establishing himself as an instrumental composer as well.

The assembled musicians give us very idiomatic, very decent readings of the "String Trios Nos. 1 and 2," the "Piano Quintet Op. 45," the "Momento musicale for String Quartet," the "Minueto for String Quartet" and "Three Pieces of G. F. Haendel transcribed for String Quartet."

One thing that strikes me about the music is its rhapsodic lyricism, its Italianate flavor, is ability to straddle romanticism, post-romanticism and even an incipient impressionism without a lot of to-do or overweaning musical pride. Martucci's lyric gift is in evidence throughout, but it does not seem to seek to draw attention to itself. There is an unforced flow of invention to be heard throughout, thanks in part to Ms. Semeraro and Quartetto Noferini's nicely understated readings. What is romantic about the music is generally allowed to emerge without the gushing of overly effortful emotive outpourings. And in the process Martucci sounds ahead of his time.

This is no doubt not music that will cause us to redefine radically the development of modernism. Nevertheless it is music of a distinct appeal, the presence of an almost endless font of creative form weaving. Listen to the first disk and its attention to the first trio and the quintet. They certainly sound fresh in the hands of the performers. They have a delightful sincerity about them, and that's true of the entire set.

I do recommend this to you, whether you wish to trace the development of modern Italian music or simply wish to experience some beautifully lyrical chamber strains, or both.

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