Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Marco Frezzato (Italy) opens the American Colony Hotel's new concert season with three Bach Solo 'Cello Suites

Violoncellist Marco Frezzato
©Ribalataluce Studio
On November 2nd 2016, the American Colony Concert Music Series opened its 2016-2017 season
with a solo Bach recital by violoncellist Marco Frezzato (Italy). Classical music has always played an important role in the cultural history of the American Colony Hotel. In fact, the hotel’s archives house an impressive collection of scores and music written at- or for the hotel. Initiated and organized by Ms. Petra Klose (K und K Wien), the first concert series opened in Autumn of 2015, with events all taking place in the exquisite Pasha Room of the hotel. The series features several internationally renowned artists performing music from the Baroque period to that of contemporary composers.

Born in Padua in 1973, Marco Frezzato studied ‘cello with Mario Brunello, Antonio Meneses and Amedio Baldovino and chamber music with the Trio di Trieste, doing postgraduate work at the Fiesole Music School, the Chigiana Academy (Siena) and the Duino International School of Music. From an early age, Frezatto has been drawn to performance practice on original instruments, taking studies in early music under Gaetano Nasillo, Laura Alvini and Lorenzo Ghielmi (Civic School of Music, Milan). Mr. Frezatto serves as principal ‘cellist with several orchestras and ensembles and has taken part in numerous recordings and in radio and television broadcasts. In 2002, he co-founded the AlcaEnsemble, with the aim of exploring performance of string quartet repertoire of the Classical and Romantic periods on original instruments.

The genesis of J.S.Bach’s six Suites for ‘Cello has remained unclear. It is thought that they date from the early 1720s, when Bach served as Kapellmeister at the Court of Prince Leopold at Cöthen, composing much instrumental music there. He may have written the ‘cello suites to be performed by gamba player and composer C.F.Abel or by a ‘cellist by the name of Lingke, both members of the court orchestra, but there is no evidence to prove this assumption. The first German solo works for ‘cello solo, they remained in near obscurity till a 13-year-old ‘cello student Pablo Casals found a second-hand copy of the suites in a Barcelona bookshop in 1890. Casals’ recording of the suites re-established them as major and treasured works of ‘cello repertoire.

Marco Frezzato, performing on a 1941 ‘cello built by Marino Capicchioni, and changed to a Baroque set-up, played three of the Bach Suites à Violoncello senza Basso, opening with Suite No.5 in C-minor BWV 1011. Right from the work’s French-style Ouverture, one gets a sense of how Frezzato allows Bach’s musical text to dictate pace and timbre changes, from spontaneity in the broad, pensive opening to small pauses on key notes, highlighting the dialogue of the ensuing tripla. As he moves into the dance movements, we find the artist’s reading of them exploring their creative potential more as music of the senses than as pure dance forms, his free playing of the Allemande and Courante traversing bar-lines in deference to phrases and personal expressiveness. In his playing of the Sarabande, Frezzato presented Bach’s stark, melancholy, otherworldly agenda, taking time to place the more dissonant, bare leaps that are so heart-rending. Springy and free, but not over-light-hearted, his performing of the Gavottes - as articulate as they were thought-provoking, with the second Gavotte tender and detailed in virtuosic, understated runs - was followed by a rubato Gigue of various colours, a riveting journey through textures and keys.

Emerging from the darker regions of the soul (C-minor), Frezzato then took his audience into the very different sound world - the sunny, crystal clarity of the tonality of G-major - of Suite No.1 BWV 1007, with the tonality enhanced by the freedom and resonance the open g string offers. We were drawn into the course of the Prelude’s energetic, joyful arpeggiation, to arrive at the mirthful, virtuosic yet noble Courante via the suave Allemande. And to the Sarabande - deep, singing and meditational under Frezzato’s bow - a bewitching moment taking one’s breath away, a moment that should not have to end - followed by the charm of the Minuets, the second, in D-minor (!),poignantly played with just a touch of reticence. The G-major Suite’s brief athletic Gigue provided Frezzato’s final personal statement on Bach’s G-major Suite.

Suite No.4 in E-flat major BWV 1010 is different again: its key creates a sense of power and complexity, making great technical demands on the player, with its zig-zag-shaped figurations. In Frezzato’s playing of the broad, richly harmonic Prelude, with its decorative transitions, one has a sense of the artist’s own curiosity as to where each arpeggio could lead, then creating another unpredictable journey in the Allemande, with its wide-ranging figurations and brisk rhythms, finished and a lively spread. Frezzato entertained us with his mischievous and virtuosic play of textures in the Courante, his breathlessly hasty section repeats keeping the listener perched at the edge of his seat. The Sarabande of the E-flat major suite always strikes me as if Bach has taken up the narrative mid-phrase; characterizing his gently lilting pace of the Sarabande, Frezzato’s focus lay in intensity of sound and the discriminating placing of each and every note. The joy, lightness-of-touch and the dash of devilry with which he infused the Bourrées were carried over to the Gigue, its frenetic mood nevertheless clear in direction.

How fortunate it was that Bach’s second wife Anna Magdalena had put the ‘cello suites to paper, of course, with no indications as to articulation and bowing, leaving much to the ‘cellist’s discretion. Frezzato’s playing placed Bach’s score in the foreground, the artist’s economic use of embellishment never obscuring the music’s noble greatness, his virtuosity a means to an end and not the focus of the recital. Marco Frezzato embraced the suites through his own very personal reading of them. The audience filling the Pasha Room was moved, privileged to be a part of the profound and inspiring experience.

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