The Mythos Trio Plays 20th-Century Italians

cover BRI96382

MARGOLA: Piano Trio. GHEDINI: 2 Intermezzi. RIETI: Piano Trio / Mythos Trio: Giuliano Cavaliere, vln; Rina You, cel; Marios Panteliadis, pno / Brilliant Classics BRI96382

Another wonderful album right up my alley, three young musicians really enjoying and digging into offbeat 20th-century repertoire by three Italian composers, two of them (Ghedini and Rieti) pretty well known.

The outlier in this set is the piano trio written by Franco Margola (1908-1992), and the only reason he isn’t as well known as the other two is that he went into teaching relatively early in his career and didn’t write as much. Yet Margola began writing his Piano Trio in A shortly after graduating from the conservatory and, on hearing the piece, Alfredo Casella immediately judged it among the best modern trios and included it in the repertoire of his own piano trio, playing it both in Italy and abroad.

This recording features rarely performed musical works by three renowned 20th-century Italian composers: Franco Margola, Giorgio Federico Ghedini and Vittorio Rieti. Margola was profoundly influenced by Alfredo Casella, whom he met while still a student of composition. After graduating, Margola began to compose his Piano Trio in A, and on hearing the piece, Casella immediately rated it among the best modern trios, including it in the repertoire of his own piano trio and performing it in Italy and abroad. The composition, in three movements, is characterized by drama and darkness, with moments of great expression but also fleeting, volatile brilliance. Its concision of articulation and form, its ability to consistently maintain a tight and fully logical discourse and its modern but comprehensible harmonic language all conspired to make this composition one of the most appreciated in Margola’s catalogue. In Due Intermezzi (Two Intermezzos), written by Ghedini at the age of 23, the sublime mastery of counterpoint and use of forms that would become the composer’s signature are already evident and accomplished. Each intermezzo has a distinct character: the first, marked “tranquillo” (calm), pervaded by an intimate atmosphere giving in to momentary expressive outbursts; the second tinged with irony and a buoyant spirit.

The Margola Trio is simply outstanding in every way; even the dramatic but far-from formulaic opening is brilliantly conceived. Margola wrote in a style that was not as far-out harmonically as the music of Stravinsky or the Schoenberg school; he was, however, clearly influenced by Bartók as well as Casella. The first movement is primarily a headlong rush of ideas, all skillfully blended and developed, with occasional respites of slower, quieter music. In essence, the two strings play together much of the time, either in close harmony or with one supporting the other with counter-figures, while the brilliant piano part seems to be working on themes of its own that complement what is going on above.

And interestingly, the opening theme of the second movement is so closely related to the music in the first that it almost sounds like a continuation, as if Margola thought of them as part of a single-movement work. The string players in the Mythos Trio have very lean, bright timbres, which suits the character of this music perfectly. The third movement, however, is entirely different in thematic material; it is also very lively, using what sounds like a 12/8 rhythm, a bit tricky for musicians of that time to negotiate smoothly. At about the 4:14 mark, Margola uses a pentatonic scale to spice things up a bit.

The Ghedini Intermezzi are early works, written when he was just 23 years old. Although the music is charming, it is also full of interesting little quirks and twists of phrase that tells you this is not a “Romantic” piece. The second movement, a particularly imaginative, bouncy piece, is titled “Bizzarro,” and bizarre is certainly is, full of mischievous little ear-catching twists and turns.

We conclude with Rieti’s trio, a more angular, Stravinskian piece than Margola’s, but still a very fine piece of music. It’s really a shame that these pieces are so little known, but no classical musician ever went hungry playing the old-timey stuff that everyone knows. The first movement also sports several split-second key changes, sometimes from note to note within a bar, which adds to the fun. The second movement, however, is entirely different in character, built on a lyrical theme played in the beginning by the solo cello before the violin and piano enter, the latter playing surprisingly simple block chords albeit with shifting harmony. After a pause at the 2:19 mark, the piano suddenly begins playing an almost Bach-like figure using single notes, to which the violin and cello come in to create a canon, which becomes the last movement.

A truly outstanding CD in every way, featuring music that is both thoughtful and surprisingly entertaining.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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