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MAY 2018 | Ritiratti | Cristina Cavalli

MAY 2018 | Ritiratti | Cristina Cavalli

Ritratti is a the second solo recording made by the Italian pianist Cristina Cavalli, following her earlier mini-album, Mediterraneo, which very cleverly contrasts a Scarlatti sonata, a Mendelssohn barcarolle, an except from Granados’ Goyescas and the rarely-heard Flamenco Fantasy by Frank Martin. This latest offering is also very well programmed and though Iberican music makes up about half the album, it is a pleasure to recommend, as it carefully juxtaposes music by other European composers and carefully avoids retreading over-familiar paths. The offsetting of complimentary music from quite different traditions, written over the last 100 years, is most interesting and makes for a most attractive recital, and despite there being 21 tracks, lasting over nearly 69 minutes, the programme is very well balanced, and works very well when played straight through.

Whilst the name of Cristina Cavalli is new to me, she is a highly experienced musician with strong credentials as a solo pianist and chamber music player, and is at present based in Madrid. The live performances I have seen on the web underline her artistic vision and consummate technique, and clearly she is someone to watch out for when on tour.

The music selected for this album reflects a series of portraits or homages to people, places, ideals and memories, and so carries a strong vein of reflection and nostalgia, though to be fair the programming avoids this ever becoming cloying. The composers included are Rachmaninov, Devastato, Guastavino, Ginastera, Janacek, Ravel, Roman, Rodrigo, Poulenc, Soutelo and Piazzolla.

Rachmaninov’s Elegie Op. 3, No.1 provides the thoughtful opener, the mood of which is captured with great sensitivity, only to be jolted into an energetic Toccata by Giusseppe Devastato, dedicated to the pianist, and showing how well she copes with a more modern idiom. The music of Guastavino was frequently inspired by countryside and places, conveying a haunting sense of nostalgia, which is captured to perfection selected in the 5 attractive pieces selected by Cavalli from Cantilenas argentinas and Cantos populares. These are attractively characterised and certainly deserve to be heard more widely. Fellow Argentine, Ginastera, follows with the justly popular early Tres danzas argentinas, covering a wide range of moods and ending on a vigorous gaucho dance, captured with the right amount of virtuosity.

The Janacek Sonata 1.X.1905 'From the Street' was a work over which the composer felt some ambivalence, and which he once tried to destroy. The sense of foreboding and death is captured with great eloquence, and though there may not be quite the level of drama and tension found in Firkusny’s classic recording, this is nonetheless an impressive reading. The tension is relieved through the familiar strains of Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante defuncte, played by Cavalli with sensitivity. A quite different mood is struck in two of the very brief 12 American Preludes by Ginastera which are almost shocking in the brevity of their utterance, but interpreted most effectively. The charming Preludio nocturno No. 2 'Luz de luna' by Alejandro Roman recalls Debussy, before we return to Guastavino for his well-known 'El Patio' from the suite La siesta. Once more I feel Cavalli has a strong affinity for this music as she clearly does for the delightful 'Caleseras' from Cuatro piezas para piano by Rodrigo. Poulenc’s Improvisation No. 15 is an eloquently moving tribute to Edith Piaf, followed by a very brief Retrato by Rudeindo Soutelo, which cleverly portrays a young girl speaking and miming to her parents. We end with another piece which was used in a film, Piazzolla’s lovely Ave Maria, with its uncomplicated expression conveyed with great understanding.

Overall a most enjoyable album with an excellent and unusual mix of repertoire which I can warmly recommend. It is also recorded very well, with a natural presence to the piano.The album is available to download or stream and a physical copy can be bought by emailing



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