It made me think of spumoni or Neapolitan ice cream with their colorful layers. It’s a new 2-CD set that came into the Friends of WILL Library. Even before I began to explore the contents of the recording, I was distracted enough to look into the origins of those frozen treats. As one would guess from “Neapolitan,” Naples is mentioned most often as the birthplace, though the original flavors may well have changed over the years to accommodate American tastes.
In the notes that accompany the new recording, cellist and musicologist Marc Vanscheeuwijck makes a case for Naples also being the garden that nurtured the first great virtuosi cellists and that led to the development of the modern cello. The new recording features cello sonatas and concertos from late 17th - early 18th century Naples. It’s not exactly light listening. What led to the ice cream thoughts was the fact that the sonatas are on a purple CD and the concertos are on a white CD, both of which suggest those huge tubs of ice cream behind the counter, just before the scooper breaks the perfectly smooth surface. In the CD set, it looks like a grape or plum flavor alongside vanilla.
Common to both CDs is the playing of cellist Gaetano Nasillo. The purple disc is actually the new recording. The white CD is a re-issue of a recording from 10 years ago. On that CD, Nasillo is joined by Ensemble 415, led by Chiara Banchini. The package is titled: In the Garden of Parthenope (Arcana 385). In Greek mythology, Parthenope was a siren or sea nymph whose songs failed to lure Ulysses into a shipwreck. According to the myth, Parthenope perished in the area that became Naples. The thought came to mind that perhaps Parthenope should have offered Ulysses a few scoops of rocky road.
Just as that set arrived, I was introduced to another new CD that has its roots in Naples. It features the Swiss pianist Olivier Cavé, whose mother is from Naples. Cavé studied with pianists Maria Tipo and Aldo Ciccolini, both of whom are from Naples as well. So was composer Domenico Scarlatti, whose music is featured alongside that of Franz Joseph Haydn on the new release, much like 2 keyboard flavors that complement each other (Aeon 1545). Cavé has had a number of highly acclaimed recordings of Scarlatti, Bach and Clementi. He’s new to us – and most welcome at that!
Cavé tells of having spent time in Naples, strolling through the streets filled with the noise, hustle & bustle of life. He assures us that when he plays Scarlatti’s music, he simply recreates at the piano all the sensations that nourished and still nourish his life. He calls Scarlatti the first great improviser, who translated life at the keyboard with passion. Cavé says that Maria Tipo reminded him that he’s Neapolitan and that he should listen to what’s inside him and play. I hope she added that he should keep playing for a long time!
Pianist Ivan Moravec had to stop playing his instrument in public for several years when a busy performance schedule rekindled the effects of a childhood skating accident. According to The Telegraph, Moravec suggested that the pain in his neck and spine “informed how his hands touched the piano keys so carefully.” He came to be known for his delicate playing. Quoted in The New York Times, Moravec said that if he had been completely healthy “with muscles like a bull,“ his style would have been absolutely different. For many listeners, his style was just what the doctor ordered. The Telegraph also told the story that Moravec carried around a little black bag – reminiscent of a doctor - with piano tuning tools when he toured as a performer.
Movarec, who was born in Prague, died a few months shy of his 85th birthday on July 27th. He’s remembered for his Chopin and his Mozart. He recorded Mozart concertos with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Sir Neville Marriner and was featured with that ensemble on the Amadeus film soundtrack. Moravec also performed the music of Czech composers including Smetana. On a Classic Morning Prelude tribute to Moravec, we heard him featured in a miniature for the piano by Smetana titled Souvenir of Pilsen. That’s a different kind of souvenir than some have sampled from that city, for which a particular type of brew is named.
But back to ice cream. Perhaps during the summer, you might think of Classic Mornings as one of those specialty desserts with dozens of scoops of ice cream of different flavors, meant for a large group to share. We’ve counted you in, so tune in to enjoy it all, Monday through Friday from 9 to noon, with the Classic Morning Prelude just before at 8:50, on FM 90.9 and online at will.illinois.edu.