Francesco Cilea: Piano Trio; Cello Sonata / Cusano, Di Tonno, Codispoti


Italian composer Francesco Cilea is best known for his operas, Adriana Lecouvreur and L'arlesiana, but his success in the opera house was spotty. His final opera, Gloria, premièred in Milan in 1907 under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, was poorly received and withdrawn after only two performances. This blow was enough to make the forty year old Cilea abandon the operatic stage permanently. He did, however, continue to write chamber music, a genre that occupied him throughout his career. This Brilliant Classics release recorded in 2013 of Cilea's Cello Sonata and Piano Trio, along with two brief works for violin and piano, brings to light music of remarkable sophistication and melodic charm.

The cello sonata and trio are works from the composer's youth, written when he was in his early twenties, but these certainly don't sound like student pieces. Opening the program is the Cello Sonata in D, played beautifully by Italian cellist Jacopo Di Tonno, with a luscious, honeyed tone that extends from top to bottom of his instrument's range. The piece has a distinctively beautiful central movement titled doloroso - somber and plaintive, it's exquisitely evocative. You can hear the opening of this movement at the beginning of the video provided below this recommendation. This work is followed by the charming Piano Trio in D, where Mr. Di Tonno is again joined by pianist Domenico Codispoti, this time with the addition of violinist Ilaria Cusano. The sample from the album provided in the right sidebar is the exciting Allegro con fuoco movement concluding this fine piano trio. In the final dozen minutes of the album, we hear music of the mature composer, Canto and Theme and Variations. Both pieces were originally conceived with orchestral accompaniment, but later arranged by Cilea for violin and piano.

Although at only forty-seven minutes the album rings in rather short, at the low Brilliant Classics asking price, it's still a bargain for any listener on the lookout for some fresh and enjoyable Romantic chamber music.

Francesco Cilea: Chamber Music