Composers: Casella
Compositions: Concerto for Strings, Piano, Timpani and Percussion, Paganiniana, Scarlattiana
Performers: Alessandro Taverna p, Orchestra Della Toscana/Daniele Rustioni
Catalogue Number: Sony 19075935122

Casella: Orchestral Music is not an easy listen. But sometimes, it’s necessary to push yourself out of your comfort zone – and stay there for a while until you learn something new. This was very much my experience of this release dedicated to Italian composer Alfredo Casella. I would not have gone out of my way to select this album in a shop and, had I been confronted with its music on the radio, I’d similarly not have stayed around to listen beyond the first few minutes – it’s a relentless attack on the senses, an overstimulating experience for the brain.

My immediate and visceral response to his Concerto for Piano, Timpani, Percussion and Strings is precisely the reason it was important to continue listening. Once my instinctive reaction had settled, the music spiralled into calmer and more emotionally complex passages, which gave me a few moments to reflect on the quality of the Orchestra Della Toscana.

Through my home speakers, pianist Alessandro Taverna often appears as a texture within the group – itself a lively and responsive collection of vibrant players – rather than an expressive and skilful soloist (which indeed he is). The Paganiniana is a high-octane and devilish take on fragments of Paganini’s repertoire – a composer who lived about a century before Casella; and the Scarlattiana brings an unpredictably cheerful and heart-warming conclusion to an otherwise gripping album.