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Pina Napolitano: Elegy

- CD Reviews

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Pina Napolitano: Elegy

Pina Napolitano on Piano
Liepāja Symphony Orchestra
Atvars Lakstīgala, Chief Conductor
(Artist Page)

Arnold Schoenberg - Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 42.

Schoenberg - “Accompaniment to a cinematographic scene”, Op. 34.

Ernst Krenek - Symphonic Elegy for string orchestra Op. 105.

Béla Bartók - Piano Concerto No. 3.

Press: Odradek:

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 19, 2019

According to Pina Napolitano, Italian pianist, nostalgia is inherent in this album’s selections, an “interior thread”. To Ms. Napolitano, “gaiety and sorrow, triumph and capitulation” are in balance with Arnold Schoenberg’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 42 (1942) and its persistent dance rhythms, along with Béla Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (1945). Added to the mix are Schoenberg’s “Accompaniment to a cinematographic scene”, Op. 34 (1929-30) and Ernst Krenek’s Symphonic Elegy for string orchestra (1946), Op. 105. In the realm of Ms. Napolitano’s thematic device of nostalgia being the silver thread that ties together this project, she sees Schoenberg’s film music as indicative of the young composer’s Expressionist past and Krenek’s Elegy as nostalgia in mourning, a commemoration of Anton Webern’s death.

Ms. Napolitano is a specialist on Schoenberg, having recorded his complete piano works, and she performs throughout Europe, the US, and Russia. She also has several university degrees, including a doctorate in Slavistics. In addition to performing, Ms. Napolitano teaches at music conservatories in Italy. The Liepāja Symphony Orchestra is the oldest orchestra in the Baltic States. Atvars Lakstīgala, born in Riga, Latvia, where one of my own grandmothers was born, is the chief conductor of Liepāja Amber Sound Symphony orchestra, as well as the artistic director of Liepāja International Piano Stars Festival.

Notable tracks:

#6 – Symphonic elegy for string orchestra – Composed by Ernst Krenek. This track, for strings, is mysterious and foreboding. Ms. Napolitano is to be commended for including this string orchestral elegy on her exceptional album. Krenek, a Czech émigré to the US, was moved by Webern’s sudden death (9/15/45) in World War II in Allied occupied Austria. Not composed as evocative of Webern’s musical motif, but rather as Krenek’s own tonal ode, eerie strings rise above resonant, deep chords of basses and celli. There is a funereal theme, mournful, turbulent, and disturbing, as Krenek must have been so shocked and moved on hearing of an adored composer colleague’s sudden loss. Mostly in adagio tempo, the sense of angst is compelling.

#7 – Allegretto, Béla Bartók’s ‘Piano Concerto No. 3’ Like Krenek, Bartók was an émigré to the US. The first movement prominently features Ms. Napolitano, in sumptuous, melodic solos and eloquent thematic expanse, with rapid then subtle motifs. A violin ensemble is featured stunningly in the 6th minute of the track, prior to and following the showcased piano. There is a sense of romanticism and sublimity in this movement.

#8 – Adagio religioso, Bartók Concerto – As this was Bartok’s final concerto, composed during the last months of his fatal bout with leukemia, and also dedicated to his second wife, Ditta, there is deep, melodic emotionality and yearning within. Within the 6th minute of the track, one hears what could be forestial bird calls and responses. Compelling and captivating, this “religious” and moving movement offers Ms. Napolitano a spotlight for dramatic and heartrending passages, especially in the last minutes of the track.

#9 – Allegro vivace, Bartók Concerto – With regal, proud, danceable passages, that intensify in cadence and tempi, this third, final movement has a sense of Hungarian pride, with uplifting folk motifs. This movement, perhaps expanded with fragments of the previous two, would be a marvelous ballet score. Or, maybe it is already. Timpani are threaded in, widely, but it is Ms. Napolitano’s piano that grabs the ear and imagination. I will look at concert listings to hear this concerto and the above elegy performed live, hopefully soon.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at