Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Piano concerto; Epos and Chiari

Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Luca Pfaff with Bruno Canino (piano)
Stradivarius STR 33348 [52 min]

A shadowy figure for me until recently (only a few of the thriving community of Italian composers have become household names in UK) two CDs and a premiere in Stuttgart have persuaded me that Ivan Fedele (b.1953) from Milan deserves our attention - belatedly so, as he is approaching 50. This CD is an excellent way to start.

Chiari (1981) for chamber orchestra was premiered by Gaudeamus in Rotterdam and combined preoccupations with variation and fragmentation, in particular the painting of Braque. In twelve sections, articulated by free cadenzas for harp, piano and marimba placed between two halves of the orchestra, it is swirling, complex yet lucid music which invites 'polyphonic' listening. One is readily seduced by the attractive surface brilliance and clarity of his sound world and sure touch with the orchestration.

Epos (1989), Fedele's prizewinning debut composition for full symphony orchestra, has seven sections contrasting energetic, impulsive music with calm, static reflection, these elements continuously interacting and blurring the junctions of the quarter hour structure.

The piano concerto (1993) consolidated Fedele's position as a 'new classicist', not a 'neo-classicist'. He uses 'closed circuits' of intervallic relationships and places key reference points to help the listener. It is influenced by spectral music and experiments in electronic music, avoids literal repetition (cp. the minimalists of today) and has a flexible approach, constantly varying the relationship between orchestra and piano in their mutual exchanges. There are four connected sections and a substantial solo cadenza, each section referring backwards and anticipating future developments. The concerto was premiered in 1993 by this orchestra and conductor, and recorded live the following year with Bruno Canino, leading exponent of his countrymen composers including Berio, and admired by Seen&Heard recently in London.

If you find my summary inscrutable, I fear you will abandon the seriously opaque commentary in the liner notes, which seems to be for fellow musicologists, but don't be deterred from making the acquaintance of a truly original voice of today and a composer of sensibility with consummate skill to convey his musical thinking in sound, however it may defy description in words.

The recording sounds fine and since it all has to be heard at least twice you should not regard its 52 minutes as short measure.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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