It is not a common occurrence that one immediately warms to music whose composer is only a marginal name in musical history. But this fine MD&G album dedicated to guitar chamber works by Italian composer Filipp Gragnani (1767-1812) soon had me under its spell and kept me wondering why such exquisite music has remained confined to oblivion for so long.
The main reason might be that we know so little about this composer and what we do know is that he was born in Livorno in 1767, started learning the violin with the hope of becoming a virtuoso of the instrument, but later on he turned to the guitar.
Owing to his excellent knowledge on the structure of this instrument, he was able to broaden its protracted limits and gradually contributed to improving its sound quality. His travels took him to Germany, France and St. Petersburg. He eventually returned to Paris and settled there, but after 1812, no further significant documentation on his life is available.
His output is considerable, but here again only a few of his pieces have survived. The works that have come down to us reveal a composer of great intellectual gifts coupled with a considerable sensibility to the balance and structure of his enchanting creations. Gragnani's genius is best manifested in his chamber works, a genre that he was much in love with, and the four examples on this CD are a veritable display of his high degree of technical independence combined with an inspired feel for tonal colours.
The Quartet and Sextet are particularly well crafted pieces full of warmth and joy, and which can, in their own inimitable way be compared to Paganini's guitar oeuvre. The Consortium Classicum are heartfelt advocates of this music and one cannot but feel indebted towards their brave effort in resurrecting a composer whose stock has been cruelly neglected for nearly two centuries.
Copyright © 2007, Gerald Fenech