PIATTI 12 Caprices for Solo Cello
Alfredo Piatti, born in Bergamo in 1822, settled in London in the 1840s. Here, in addition to his career as a virtuoso soloist, he became a renowned chamber musician, for many years appearing regularly in the Beethoven Quartet Society and Popular Concerts, where he played in string quartets led by Ernst, Joachim and Wilma Neruda. Joachim, especially, found him a valued colleague, engaging him for quartet concerts in Paris and Germany. These Caprices were published in 1875; though they all deal with advanced technique, they’re not really in the tradition of spectacular virtuosity inaugurated by Paganini but rather suggest the approach of the Chopin Etudes, taking a particular aspect of technique – trills, string-crossing, arpeggios with springing bow – and using it to make a piece with musical substance.
The Venezuelan-American player Carmine Miranda has recorded the Caprices without resorting to any edits; each piece is the product of a single take. Before I read this, I’d noticed the occasional moment of uncomfortable tuning; but really these imperfections are very slight and for him to record such difficult music in this way, with an intimate, close balance, is a remarkable achievement. And one really does experience something of the effect of live performance, recalling the immediacy (though not the sound quality) of the best solo recordings of the 78rpm era. The music, though not startlingly original – best, perhaps, not to listen to the whole set at a sitting – is inventive and appealing. Overall this amounts to a most attractive issue.