Alfredo Casella -Suite in C major Op.13
(b. Turin 25. July 1883 – d. Rome, 5. March 1947)
Suite in C major Op.13
(á Jean Huré) 1909-10
Overture – Allegro ma non troppo p.3
Sarabande – Gravemente p.43
Bourrée – Molto vivace, con brio e spirito p.65
Alfredo Casella was born in Turin in 1883. His parents were both musical, his mother being a pianist and his father a cellist at the Liceo Musicale in Turin. After a successful concert debut as a pianist in the Circolo degli Artisti in 1893, and on the advice of Guiseppe Martucci (1856-1909)1, it was agreed that the young Casella should become a musician. In 1896 he enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire, studying piano with Louis Diémer (1843-1919), and after graduating remained at the conservatoire to attend the composition lectures given by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924). From 1906-09 Casella was engaged as the harpsichordist for the Société des Instruments Ancien, an ensemble established in the 1890’s by his piano tutor Louis Diémer, and in 1911 Casella became the general secretary of the Société Musicale Indépendante [S.M.I], an organisation founded in 1910 by Fauré, Ravel, Schmitt, and Koechlin to support and promote contemporary music.2
During Casella’s first compositional phase, up until 1913, he clearly espoused a heterogeneous approach to composition, an eclectic cosmopolitanism that coalesced and juxtaposed Mahler, Russian Nationalism, Fauré, and Italian folk-like thematic material. Notable compositions from this first compositional phase include Symphony no 1 Op.5 (1905-06), Italia: Rhapsody for orchestra Op.11 (1909), Symphony no 2 Op.12 (1908-09), the Suite in C Op 13 (1909-10), and the ballet Le couvent sur l’eau (Il Convento Veneziano) Op.19 (1912-13).
The Suite in C Op13 is a three movement work whose titles echo Baroque suites – Overture, Sarabande, and Bourrée. The suite is dedicated to Casella’s friend, the French composer and organist Jean Huré (1877-1930). It shares similarities with Mahler’s Symphonies No. 1 (1884-88, revised 1893-96) and No. 4 (1892, 1899-1900, revised 1901-10) regarding instrumentation (no trombones or Tuba), and clearly demonstrates Casella’s overarching compositional intertextual syntax, the coalescing of ‘old’ and ‘new’ simultaneously that juxtaposes stylistic influences, and foreshadows Casella’s Neoclassical/Classical modernist phase from 1920 to 1944.
The Overture begins with an opening reminiscent of Mahler’s Symphony no 1 – the held string harmonic over which the woodwind play a descending line, delivering us to and a d-flat minor chord in the brass (a minor Neapolitan triad) which then resolves back to a C major chord. The first a section then commences. There are two main themes – the first on French Horns and the second on lower strings (eight bars before figure 2). Both themes are then repeated before a chromatic build up occurs leading us to a ff reprise of the themes starting at figure 3. From bars 63 to 77 a series of dominant to tonic cadences occurs driving towards a reprise of the second theme (over an E-natural bass) followed by the first theme (over a B-flat bass) …
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