Pina Napolitano - Tempo e Tempi
- 01 – Carter – Night Fantasies
- 02 – Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat, Op. 110 – I. Moderato cantabile molto espressivo
- 03 – Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat, Op. 110 – II. Allegro molto
- 04 – Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat, Op. 110 – III. Adagio ma non troppo
- 05 – Carter – Two Thoughts about the Piano – I. Intermittences
- 06 – Carter – Two Thoughts about the Piano – II. Catenaires
- 07 – Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111 – I. Maestoso – Allegro con brio ed appassionato
- 08 – Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111 – II. Arietta. Adagio molto semplice cantabile
- 09 – Jeffrey Mumford – two Elliott Carter tributes – I. for Elliott
- 10 – Jeffrey Mumford – two Elliott Carter tributes – II. a celebration of Elliott
Tempo e Tempi
In Tempo e Tempi, Pina Napolitano traces connections between Carter and Beethoven, composers whose music exhibits both power and playfulness, combining taut structures with the freedom of fantasia. Tempo e Tempi (Time and Times) takes its name from a poem by Eugenio Montale, set by Carter, that encapsulates two central aspects of the album: the relationships between different superimposed musical times, and the relationship between historical times, which makes possible the musical ‘meeting’ between these two composers from different epochs. Napolitano plays Carter’s Night Fantasies and Two Thoughts about the Piano alongside Beethoven’s Sonatas Opp. 110 and 111, as well as Jeffrey Mumford’s two Elliott Carter tributes.
To listen and download Pina Napolitano’s recording of Jeffrey Mumford’s second Elliott Carter Tribute,
“a celebration of Elliott”, please visit odra.dk/elliott
“… brilliantly executed … Vividly recorded … vigorous yet precisely pointed…”
The Times - Paul Driver / July 2020
“Taking its title from that of a late Carter song cycle, this sequence of piano pieces recognises that the “time dimension” is key to all his work. His gloriously abstruse, fearsomely virtuosic Night Fantasies — brilliantly executed — and the late diptych Two Thoughts About the Piano are interleaved with the two last sonatas by Beethoven in another assertion of multiple time streams. Vividly recorded, the latter accounts are vigorous yet precisely pointed; and a little Carter tribute by Jeffrey Mumford follows.”
“… captivating … Napolitano shines…”
Wiener Zeitung - Christoph Irrgeher / August 2020
“The pianists Pina Napolitano and Jamina Gerl present captivating solo albums.
You don’t have to strive for the big stage to gain respect. Working in a niche can also raise an artist’s profile. See Pina Napolitano: the Italian pianist prefers to use her brilliance and passion in the service of Arnold Schönberg and her work is valued amongst twelve-tone circles. The woman from Campania is not only active at the piano: as a Slavicist and philologist, she also writes specialist articles and translations.
The joy of the unusual is also inscribed in her new CD: Napolitano combines Beethoven sonatas with the sounds of [our] contemporary Elliott Carter. In doing so is she caught in a balancing act straddling both periods? On the surface, yes. Any music lover who says A here does not have to say B. Carter (1908-2012) was one of the hardcore modernists in the United States; it was no coincidence that the European avant-garde held him in high esteem. It is true that he did not work with the same toolbox as the firebrands around Pierre Boulez. But his way of working was also based on a reorganisation of musical vocabulary, and this led to similar auditory labyrinths. For instance, in his “Night Fantasies” for piano (1980), not a soothing music, rather the opposite: wisps of lightning culminate in harsh chords. This brusqueness can be quite gripping, as in the second part of “Two Thoughts About the Piano”. A constant salvo of dissonance carries the listener away like rapids; Napolitano lets this stream of notes rush as precisely as if it were a force of nature.
And Beethoven? His last two sonatas nestle provocatively close to Carter’s sounds: hardly a second between the two composers. For the ear a rupture, but for those interested in history an opportunity for comparison. Let us try to go back to the year 1822: with their zigzag between forms, keys and tempi, the sonatas numbers 31 and 32 were romping places of innovation. Here, too, Napolitano shines as the composer’s advocate: she takes refuge in an equally homogeneous and detailed portrayal of these Beethoven’s last forays into uncharted pianistic territory.”
“Pina Napolitano is an intellectual … as well as a formidable pianist… Some effects on the canvas are painted with the finest brush, others come with massive force: the playing has both driving energy and fastidious precision, and everything has a bright and bracing freshness.”
BBC Music Magazine - Michael Church / August 2020
Pina Napolitano is an intellectual – witness her impressive achievements as scholar and translator of Slavonic literature – as well as a formidable pianist. Juxtaposing Beethoven’s supreme works for piano with pieces by Elliott Carter, she issues a warning. Contemporary classical music, she says, is difficult: ‘it needs careful listening, sometimes toilsome and repeated – it is not “background” music.’ Carter wanted his Night Fantasies, which is the fulcrum of this programme, to describe the activity of the mind suspended between slumber and wakefulness, ‘fragments of thoughts, memories, neuronal activity, firing connections and disconnections, REM states of sleep and dreams’.
On a first listen, it seems rebarbative, but on a second I get the point. It really does feel like musical free-association, with smouldering and desultory passages periodically bursting into flame. Some effects on the canvas are painted with the finest brush, others come with massive force: the playing has both driving energy and fastidious precision, and everything has a bright and bracing freshness.
My first reaction to Napolitano’s approach to Beethoven’s Op. 110 was negative – too brisk to allow the work’s mystery to come through – but on a second listen it felt right, because this is essentially a tight piece of musical argument: she wants us to register the correspondences between Beethoven’s fantasies and Carter’s, both of which exemplify a pioneering modernism. With Beethoven’s Op. 111 and Carter’s Two Thoughts the story is the same. Mumford’s 86-second Carter tribute is a mere breath of wind, and a second one which we are promised on the Odradek website proves unreachable. But this is a provocatively brave album.
“… the Italian Pina Napolitano (2020), who recorded this sonata [Beethoven Op. 110] together with parched-dry modernities by the American Elliott Carter, has possibly the most glistening piano sound of any in this selection. It is, to my considerable surprise, a standard Steinway.”
Slipped Disc - Norman Lebrecht / July 2020
“... the Italian Pina Napolitano (2020), who recorded this sonata [Beethoven Op. 110] together with parched-dry modernities by the American Elliott Carter, has possibly the most glistening piano sound of any in this selection. It is, to my considerable surprise, a standard Steinway.”
“… I am hugely impressed by … Pina Napolitano.” [On Beethoven Op. 111]
Slipped Disc - Norman Lebrecht / July 2020
“... I am hugely impressed by ... Pina Napolitano.” [On Beethoven Op. 111]
“… varied and abundant … More than interesting; a fascinating record.”
Thierry Vagne / July 2020
“We had already appreciated this pianist during the release of two of her previous records. She has been noticed by many for her interpretations of the music of the Second Viennese School. Here she reflects on Carter and Beethoven.
Elliott Carter’s piano music brings to mind both a Boulezian post-serial aesthetic but also Charles Ives.
‘Night Fantasies’ is a fairly demanding piece for both the pianist and the listener (over 21 minutes long), but we clearly perceive its structure during a second listen; the writing is varied and abundant, and we never get bored, not for a minute. The two subsequent piano pieces are of the same level and “Catenaires” is a kind of Toccata which could be used by many virtuosos in need of an original encore.
The record is called ‘Tempo e Tempi’; if the - complex - management of tempi is necessary for ‘Night Fantasies’, it plays its full role in this interpretation of Beethoven's 32nd; we follow the rhythm so much that we want to tap our feet all the way, without this harming the expression but reinforcing the clarity of the reading of the score.
It ends with two short tributes from composer Jeffrey Mumford to Elliott Carter, much in Carter's style.
More than interesting; a fascinating record.”
“Between delicate shades and stormy atmospheres, Napolitano packs a disc full of exciting sound contrasts, always maintaining a rigorous technique and a meticulous reading attentive to the melodic progress of the score.”
OperaClick - Emiliano Michelon / July 2020
Among the myriads of tributes to Ludwig van Beethoven that have so far been published in this 2020, two hundred and fifty years since his birth, Pina Napolitano's Time and Times is one of the most interesting that we have ever heard. Not only because it wants to be a celebration of Bonn's genius, but above all because it shows how current his music is still, offering a singular comparison with one of the best known composers of our present, Elliott Carter. Already in the title, based on a poem by Eugenio Montale, the entire content of the album is effectively summarized, that infinity of meanings that the word time brings with it.
There is historical time, first of all, the almost two centuries of distance between Beethoven's compositions (1820-21 the last two piano sonatas) and those of Carter ( Night Fantasies, 1980 and Two Thoughts About the Piano, of 2005-06, with the composer on the threshold of a hundred years), and all the thousand events that characterized the history of music in these two extremes. There is musical time, perhaps the most surprising of all because the two authors are so distant in time and space yet closer than we could have ever imagined: just listening to the record to be surprised to reflect how in his last compositions Beethoven is arrived at rhythmic and harmonious solutions that seem to anticipate the post-war composers by one hundred and fifty years. Finally, there is time understood as the time of day: it is a disc permeated with a dreamy, lyrical and nocturnal atmosphere, despite all the roughness that unfolds here and there between the songs. Between delicate shades and stormy atmospheres, Napolitano packs a disc full of exciting sound contrasts, always maintaining a rigorous technique and a meticulous reading attentive to the melodic progress of the score. The rotation in the tracklist of the two composers is built precisely to allow us to grasp their affinities and divergences in every minimum feature.
Moreover, Pina Napolitano's specialisation in the twentieth-century repertoire places the "Carterian side" of the disc in predominance: his Night Fantasies , opening track, stands out for the performance at times diaphanous given to her by the pianist. It is, in the composer's intentions, a sort of nocturnal soundscape of the mind: the alternation of figurations of a Debussian lightness and violent clusters of chords want to reflect the typical cerebral digressions that catch us in the moment between sleep and wakefulness. As well as the two short Two Thoughts About the Piano , of which the pianist from Caserta has been able to grasp the most intimate aspect: the figurations insisted on the serious tones, the constant dynamic changes, the pauses to give a mysterious aura to the first song (Intermittences); the incessant pulsation to support the whirling phrasing in the second, Caténaires .
It does not mean that the two Beethoven Sonatas are of lesser quality or listless: however, the sensation on the skin is that Pina Napolitano had much more fun playing the works of Carter rather than the Sonatas op. 110 and op. 111 by Beethoven. Not bad, because its interpretation still remains of a high standard, perhaps only colder and more mechanical in those passages that require greater virtuosity.
In short, we are talking about a dense and exciting album to listen to: it does not waste a single second of the eighty minutes available and, indeed, overflows, with a track released only for the digital version. In fact there is also a small cameo at the end of Jeffrey Mumford, American composer pupil of Carter, two epigrams written in honor of his teacher; it is worth looking for the second one (A Celebration of Elliott) on the various Spotify, iTunes, etc.
Finally, a thought also to the container, as generous as the content: a booklet very rich in details and information (in English, French and German), in a solid package, very well cared for and graphically appealing. In the era of liquid music we cannot say for sure if this can make a difference, certainly it is a pleasure to note the care with which Odradek Records manages its publications.”
“Beautifully presented, miraculously recorded and with a programme to die for, this, surely, is what recordings should be all about.”
Classical Explorer - Colin Clarke / August 2020
“2020 is Beethoven year, after all: and if it is hardly turning out as expected, pianist Pina Napolitano reminds us not only of Beethoven's greatness, but also illuminates his last two sonatas by programming them with pieces by Elliott Carter and Jeffrey Mumford (one of Mumford's pieces is available as a download/stream due to the playing time of the recital).
It's worth noting that the record company, Odradek, is based in Pescara, Italy, a beautiful city that looks out on the Adriatic Sea. Why should this be so noteworthy for disc featuring music by a German, English and American composers? Because that's where, at Lungomare Matteotti 79, the famous Steinway showrooms are, overseen by one Angelo Fabbrini. If the name seems familiar, it is because of the concept of the Fabbrini Steinway. Fabbrini has provided pianos for the greatest names - he worked with Muchelangeli for decades, and concert-goers attending Maurizio Pollini's recitals will be familiar with Fabbrini's signature emblazoned on the side of the piano. The pianos are extraordinary (as is his showroom); and Odradek's studios are just up the road. It's a pianistic marriage made in heaven.
Pina Napolitano's previous discs that are of especial note include Brahms The Progressive (late Brahms with Berg and Webern) and the complete Schoenberg piano works. So it is perhaps unsurprising that we are presented here with Beethoven in the company of Elliott Carter. Tempo e Tempi (Time and Times) - the title of a poem by Eugenio Montale (1896-1981) that gives this disc its title in turn - brings in concepts of multiple times, and of one underlying time, concepts applicable to all of the pieces on this album. The poem was set to music by Elliott Carter in the late 1990s.
Odradek has released an "album teaser" that includes some fabulous visuals:
Carter's Night Fantasies is complex; but within that uncompromising surface is beauty as pulse and tempo exist in a continuously fluctuating continuum of modernism. You just have to give it a chance, allow it to grow - not on you, but within you. And after that, how the opening chords of Beethoven's A flat Sonata, Op. 110, seem to glow. This is a lovely performance, simultaneously intelligent and beautiful - and the sound of that Steinway has to be heard to be believed, so well balanced, with a gloriously sweet top that sustains magnificent cantabile. Napolitano invites us to see the Beethoven as splintering off in various directions: fugally, to Bach's A flat major Fugue from Book I (BWV 862); but perhaps the violin "sobs" from Beethoven's own String Quartet Op. 130 also come into play in some of the right-hand melodies against a throbbing left-hand.
Carter's Two Thoughts about the Piano is actually two pieces: "Intermittences" and "Caténaires," both written in his 90's. When I first heard this disc, it was the unpredictable accents of "Caténaires" that appealed - now, further down the line, "Intermittences" has been revealing its beauties. This is a disc that rewards many, many listenings.
Beethoven's final, C minor, Piano Sonata, Op. 111 hardly seems out of place; its dramatically plunging opening seems almost dismissive of the Carter. But of course we meet the other side of Beethoven too, the ecstatic meditations of the Adagio molto semplice cantabile, deliciously unhurried, transcendental. To hear the first of Jeffrey Mumford's Elliott Carter Tributes, "For Elliott," straight afterwards affords an odd sense of rest to the disjunct intervals; heading to the Web for the second, "A Celebration of Elliott" we finds a more celebrational piece, perhaps with echoes of bells in there, too.
Beautifully presented, miraculously recorded and with a programme to die for, this, surely, is what recordings should be all about.
Let's end with a reminder of Napolitano's Brahms, something mightily restful after all that complexity: the wonderful A major Intermezzo, Op. 118/2, recorded in "The Spheres", Odradek's recording studio (occasionally used, also, for small concerts)”.