Italian cello rarities prove a mixed affair, despite powerful characterisation

Roberto Trainini: Casella, Mulè, Pizzetti, Respighi

The Strad Issue: July 2024

Description: Italian cello rarities prove a mixed affair, despite powerful characterisation

Musicians: Roberto Trainini (cello) Stella Ala Luce Pontoriero (piano)

Works: Casella: Cello Sonata op.8; Notturno and Tarantella. Mulè: Largo. Pizzetti: Tre Canti. Respighi: Adagio con Variazioni

Catalogue number: TACTUS TC880003

A passion for rediscovering Italian 20th-century music has proved the inspiration for this clearly recorded disc. Roberto Trainini’s uncle – a professional cellist – opened the gateway to cello studies, and his strong commitment to this repertoire is powerfully conveyed here, with a vivid use of vibrato and a strong sense of line. It’s unfortunate, however, that the material on offer is somewhat variable.

Casella, for example, is a rather patchy composer. The opening of his early Cello Sonata offers a bold idea that immediately latches in the mind, and is developed very effectively in the first movement, but the meanderingly chromatic Adagio yields few rewards. A similar theme to the opening movement surfaces in the finale, but quickly gets buried in a cluttered myriad of notes. It’s equally difficult to get much out of the quicksand harmonic language that features in the later Nocturne, but the mood lightens in the fiery Tarantella which partners it, delivered by Trainini with great panache.

Respighi’s Adagio con Variazoni is another disappointment The main thematic material seems lacklustre, though Trainini projects the work’s lyrical qualities and string-crossing virtuosity with élan. Far more appealing is the melodic simplicity of the Largo by the operatic composer Mulè. But undoubtedly the highlights of the disc are Pizzetti’s Tre Canti. Here, the melodic and harmonic material is striking and the textures carefully handled by Trainini and Pontoriero.