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Domenico BARTOLUCCI (1917-2013)
Trio in A Major for violin, cello and piano [27:48]
Prelude, Intermezzo and Fugue in A Minor for violin and cello [8:00]
Prelude, Intermezzo and Fugue in C Minor for violin, viola and cello [8:20]
Violin Sonata in G Major [28:35]
Marco Venturi (piano)
Luca Venturi, Giacomo Scarponi (violin)
Ivo Scarponi (cello)
Angelo Cicillini (viola)
rec. 2015, Sala Accademica del Pontificio Istituto, Italy

How many composers do you know who were also in some measure clergymen. I can think of Vivaldi, the Red Priest, Abbé Liszt and Greville Cooke the composer of some adventurous high-romantic piano pieces, including Cormorant Crag. Domenico Bartolucci was new to me. He was educated in Florence and Rome. His musical strengths soon came to attention at the highest levels and Pope Pius XII appointed Bartolucci as Maestro Perpetuo of the Sistine Chapel. He also held a teaching position at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. Although I have never heard of him before, he wrote much sacred music as well as symphonies, concertos and chamber music. Amongst the sacred music there are symphonic oratorios and a sacred opera around the life of the painter Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446). Bartolucci was appointed a cardinal in 2010.

Brilliant Classics and a band of musicians have now put together a well-recorded Bartolucci introduction. The Piano Trio in A Major, for the standard configuration of instruments runs to almost half an hour. The four movements include a broad and liltingly romantic Allegro moderato. Then comes a tentative and moving Canzone and a flighty Mendelssohnian Scherzo running at full tilt. The finale picks up on the nobility of the Allegro moderato but does so at a smiling and ambling pace with relaxed pearly cataracts of notes from the piano. The unusually scored (unless you are Kodály) Prelude, Intermezzo and Fugue for violin and cello is fugally and busily patterned with an Intermezzo to anchor the structure in place. The other Prelude, Intermezzo and Fugue (for string trio) moves reverentially and coolly in its outer movements. Only in the central Intermezzo is there even a glimmer of the joys to be found in the Piano Trio. With the Violin Sonata in G Major Bartolucci returns to the unbuttoned romance of the Trio. The violin sings its heart out in first movement rather in the manner of Schoeck and Marx. The work is dedicated to the violinist Riccardo Brengola, a contemporary of the composer and on the teaching staff of the Accademia. There is, as the notes by Guido Salvetti comment, something of Mozart in the carefree finale.

Backward-looking music, but the romance and delicate inspirations of the mainstream past were sufficient for Bartolucci and these works are enough to make us at least curious about his music for larger-scale forces.

Rob Barnett


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