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Alberto CURCI (1886-1973)
Violin Concerto No.1 in D minor ‘Concerto romantico’, Op.21 (pub. 1944) [16:33]
Violin Concerto No.2 in D minor, Op.30 (1962) [20:42]
Violin Concerto No.3 in G minor, Op.33 (pub. 1966) [18:57]
Suite italiana in stile antico in A minor, Op.34 [15:52]
Franco Gulli (violin)
Studio Orchestra/Franco Capuana
rec. July 1963 (1 & 2) and July 1964 (3, Suite), Basilica of Sant’Eufemia, Milan

Violinist Alberto Curci was born in Naples in 1886. He studied with Angelo Ferni, a pupil of Vieuxtemps and de Beriot, later taking lessons from Joachim in Berlin and Ševčik in Prague, by which time he had already embarked on a career. After the First World War he returned to Naples where he taught for four decades, instituted a biennial violin competition and composed a sequence of works. He also established Edizioni Curci, publishing and writing important monographs and books.

The recordings in this disc are all products of his Edizioni Curci LPs, made in 1963-64. Strangely the first two concertos were only issued in mono on that label but appeared in stereo on Musical Heritage Society on their American release whilst a similar fate befell the Third Concerto and Suite: mono only on first release and on stereo only in the form of an obscure Curci Records cassette.

The First Concerto was published in 1944 but Tully Potter, in his excellent booklet notes, suggests it was composed some time earlier. Its ripe romanticism discloses a genuine gift for songful lyricism cast in the most romantic context. Elements here may remind one of the Dvořák Concerto – not just the lyric writing but the deft wind interjections – though the sweetly peaceful scena of the slow movement is undoubtedly all Curci’s own. It has a Mascagni-like warmth, and when played by that most expressive and sensitive of Italian players, Franco Gulli, it is especially piquant. His portamenti and finger position changes all bring out the evocative aroma of this bouquet-like music. The finale, by contrast, is a terpsichorean one full of Neapolitan dance rhythms; strong on charm, it’s lightly orchestrated.

There’s something slightly Slavic about Curci’s muse, as the 1962 Second Concerto amplifies. Again, the ethos is late-romanticism predicated on the most vocalised and lyrical of devices. The second subject is especially rarefied in this respect, with a delicious richness to the melody lines. The finale has some muted Gypsy-style acrobatics and whilst there are plenty of incidents, they don’t always hold together too persuasively. Again, the orchestration is not especially imaginative but it’s more than merely functional. Published in 1966 the Third Concerto is lyric and busy, with more delightful tunes – Curci seems to have been saturated in lyricism and one wonders what kind of soloist he was – and a finale that reveals some Sarasate-like devices. The idiom was desperately old-fashioned by 1966 but it sounds as if Curci was happily writing in a compositional bubble, untroubled by advances, content simply to give of his lyric self. The Suite italiana in stile antico was also published in 1966. Its five movements are bright if occasionally formulaic. The Presto finale is the zestiest; a dance that perhaps shows the influence of Kreisler.

Throughout Gulli is an unflagging guide to Curci’s undemanding muse. He paints with great warmth and skill. Conductor Franco Capuna sounds wholly attuned to the music. The ‘studio orchestra’ has been tentatively traced in the notes as being that of La Scala, Milan with possible additions from another orchestra and freelancers. Quite a lot of detective work was necessary to tease out the details for this release and the restorations are in really first-class sound. This disc restores a barely remembered composer to the catalogue in excellent fashion.

Jonathan Woolf



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