CD LIVE - Adolfo Fumagalli
CD LIVE Adolfo Fumagalli
Piano Music, Volume One
Registrato a Inzago, Auditorium
(Inzago 1828 - Firenze 1856)
The only one recording available
L'Ecole moderne du pianiste, Op. 100: No. 7 Le cloitre: priere du matin
Adalberto Maria Riva
Adolfo Fumagalli (18281856) is a now forgootten figure; but that was not always the case. In his lifetime he was one of the most respected pianists, perhaps the most famous Italian pianist of the 19th century until the arrival of Busoni. And Busoni esteemed Fumagalli enough to keep a number of his predecessor’s compositions in his active repertoire. Liszt hailed him as “the greatest of pianists, because anyone who is able to negotiate the difficulties of transcribing an overture like that of [Berlioz’s] Cellini is without doubt an artist out of the ordinary.” Many others also esteemed him, both for his playing and his compositional artistry. The Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris considered him “the first serious pianist to come out of Italy”; Rossini praised him especially for his cantabile playing; the critic Filippo Filippi saw in his compositions an “originality of ideas constructed mostly simply and most faultlessly” and “freedom from the commonplace and banal.” Through his virtuosity, perhaps especially for his wickedly difficult solo left-hand compositions, in Belgium he gained the nickname “the Paganini of the piano.” He died at the early age of 27. Le Figaro wrote of him that he was “rapidly advancing in great leaps to become Liszt’s successor, easily overtaking the young generation of contemporary pianists.” And by a quick glance at some of his compositions, that statement becomes clearer.
The recital here incorporates two types of works: operatic fantasies based on other composers’ music, and original compositions, of which the programmatic studies of the École moderne du pianist, op. 100, are some of the composer’s finest. Of the former works, it is difficult to say which of the two Meyerbeer-inspired compositions is the more impressive: the diabolically difficult left-handedGrand Fantasy, op. 106, with its complex counterpoint, its myriad of sounds and timbres, and its extreme virtuosity—the one hand does more in this piece than two do in others!—or the Grand Fantasy on Le proophète, op. 43, one of Fumagalli’s pièces de résistance, which was praised highly by none other than Meyerbeer himself. Forced to choose, I might have to pick the former, for even with the music sitting in front of me, my reaction must have been similar to that of the critic, Paul Scudo: Arriving late to a concert given by Fumagalli at the Salle Herz in Paris, in which the pianist was performing his own op. 106, the critic, astonished by what he heard, finally cast his eyes toward the stage. He discovered that “Fumagalli’s gloved right hand was resting on his knee.” There was good reason that the work was dedicated to Franz Liszt!
The original compositions are even more interesting in their own ways. Though only 18 of the proposed 24 studies were completed before the composer’s untimely death, the ones that were finished reveal a composer of both astonishing creativity and compositional command. Modeled on Liszt’s Études d’exécution transcendante, they provide more than just an immense technical challenge; they are moreover programmatic works meant to stimulate the listener’s sense of awe and imagination. Of the four works here, the 10th study, the “Danse fantastique,” is one of the finest. Similar in character in this listener’s ears to Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre, the swirling figurations, the hyper-staccato bass line, the bell-like chimes, and the gracefulness of the writing all come together to create an eerie yet charming take on the macabre. Described by the pianist, Adalberto Maria Riva, as “the most technically demanding piece of the whole collection,” the 17th Study is perhaps my favorite. Entitled “La Roche du Diable” and prefaced by a text by Victor Hugo, the composition is unrelenting in its demands—its powerful use of the lower bass registerrs, its stormy use of arpeggios which cascade up and down the keyboard, and its powerful ending all come together to create a most exciting, yet sinister sounding, work.
Throughout this recital Riva proves himself the ideal interpreter of these works in both his demeanor and his virtuosity, the latter of which is, at times, astonishing; one can hardly imagine the works being played better than Riva does them here, whether technically or musically. If one is a fan of 19th-century pianism then, simply put, this recording belongs in your collection. Though some may call Fumagalli a salon composer, he at times proves himself much more than just a composer of pretty tunes and shallow theatrical gestures. And if one doesn’t know his music, then one owes oneself the pleasure of getting to know it better.
article originally appeared
Maria Riva: a ‘convincing advocate’ of Fumagalli.
American Record Guide, January 2016
Italian pianist Riva has
toured internationally and is a real jaw-dropping technician. I cannot
imagine these pieces done any better, and he accomplishes his tasks
with ease and sparkle. His ability to maintain a light touch in the
face of a shower of rapid notes is most impressive.
© 2011 Adalberto Maria Riva