Feb. 7 - 2021
The Art Music Lounge
© 2021 Lynn René Bayley
Benedetto Boccuzzi's Debut Album
The notes for this CD by Fiorella Sassanelli tell us that Benedetto Boccuzzi is a young pianist, just 30 years old, who “has taken very precise paths in terms of aesthetic and repertoire choices that allow him to present a record that captivates the listener without necessarily being an unprecedented monograph resulting from some musicological discovery or some rare repertoire,” although the music of Diana Rotaru (b. 1981) is indeed rather esoteric and not at all as well known as the other composers presented here. Boccuzzi, who performs regularly in Europe, says in the booklet that he feels “like a magician who pulls fantastical inventions out of a box of wonders.” This CD is scheduled for release next week (February 15).
Certainly, his approach to Debussy’s music is on the ethereal side, and he uses this composer’s music to bookend his recital, the Images at the beginning and the Deux Danses at the end. Yet despite his light touch and use of pedal, his Debussy is not mannered or otherwise Romanticized; it bears a strong resemblance to the way Michael Korstick plays this composer’s works. His choice of the remaining repertoire on this CD is meant to show Debussy’s influence on later composer who wrote in entirely different styles based on the same basic aesthetic.
Despite being Italian, his style sounds more deeply rooted in the French school of playing, similar to Casedesus and even in some respects like Cortot. It also helps that the microphone placement is perfect, fully capturing Boccuzzi’s sound as if he were playing in your living room and not trying to emulate an empty concert hall. He is also a master technician who can make the most difficult passages sound easy without being glib. And when he moves from Debussy to his own somewhat strange (quasi) Notturno, one recognizes the connection to Debussy despite his sometimes playing the inside strings of his instrument, not for cheap effect but for color and emphasis. This piece is much more harmonically daring than Debussy, and has a less definite form; at times, it sounds as if he was also whistling softly while holding down a low bass range chord. From there he moves on to the music of George Crumb, which is not so different in style from his own, and he plays it very well indeed.
And just as Boccuzzi shows the links between Debussy and his own music, his own music and that of Crumb, he then turns to Messiaen as an earlier link between them all. Boccuzzi also plays Messiaen a bit crisper and less Romantic than many French pianists do, yet still maintains a light, airy feel for the music. As it turns out, Rotaru’s Debumessiquise is another piece in the Messiaen mold, combining amorphic mood moments with more structured components, including some fast keyboard flourishes. From Messiaen and Rotaru, we then move on to Takemitsu, whose music is even more abstract yet within the same basic school. Boccuzzi then returns to Debussy to wrap things up in his own transcriptions of the Deux Danses for harp and orchestra.
It is such a pleasure to hear a pianist with an imaginative recital combining music from the early 20th century to later in that century as well as from the 21st. Would that more artists had Boccuzzi’s artistic imagination and open mind!
Feb. 15 - 2021
© Aart van der Wal, 2021
À Claude - Benedetto Boccuzzi
This fabulous recital shows the versatility of Benedetto Boccuzzi (1990, New York) as a pianist and composer. I have no idea how broad and diverse his repertoire is, but judging by this CD alone it must be very substantial. I deduce this mainly from the ease with which he has given these so very different musical styles their very own face: each work really stands on its own, which may be partly explained by the fact that he is also a composer himself. It spontaneously came to my mind that Boccuzzi's approach to this music is very similar to that of Benjamin Britten as a pianist: as if there is a dialogue between two composers. It is a highly creative process that immediately sparks (or at least should spark) the listener. Being witness to a narrative journey that is cast in a perfect form and in which a deeply layered expressive spectrum is leading, also rich in - suggested! - invention of the moment (which I feel also says something about Boccuzzi's creative extent as an improviser).
If the tempi are already perfectly chosen, the tempo changes themselves exude a naturalness that does not for a moment affect the tightness of the form. In this recital Movement, form and content come together so phenomenally in this recital. This applies not only to the music itself, but also to the composition of the programme. It is 'simply' masterfully done, splendidly sounding and so brimming with finesse that it encouraged me to listen to this unparalleled playing again and again. There is that highly developed sense of colour, the ability to channel even the voice of unruliness, and Boccuzzi's loving embrace of the whimsical beauty of these twentieth-century miniatures, the vector of which is clear: along Debussy, Messaien and Takemitsu, with the miniature playing the most important role.
A brilliant debut album by Benedetto Boccuzzi, a name to remember!
Mar. 1 - 2021
All About the Arts / Rafael's Music Notes
© Rafael de Acha, 2021
À Claude, Benedetto Boccuzzi's extraordinary debut album
Claude Debussy wrote Images as a set of six compositions for solo piano in two series, each consisting of three pieces. The second series includes three gorgeous miniatures: Cloches à travers les feuilles, Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut, and Poissons d’or. Each of the three pieces is inspired by things that infuse these delicate compositions with the power to evoke free-associations: bells in a church, moonlight bathing an ancient temple, or fish swimming in a pond. In this respect Debussy’s Images are impressionistic works – much as Debussy loathed the term – which invite the listener to let the imagination roam.
And that freeing up of the mind is exactly what À Claude, Benedetto Boccuzzi’s 2021 extraordinary debut album (DCTT111) for the Italian label Digressione Music brings about.
Featuring a richly executed palette of works by Claude Debussy, Olivier Messiaen, George Crumb, Toru Takemitsu, Diana Rotaru, and Boccuzzi himself, and now available for worldwide distribution by Milano Dischi/Naxos, À Claude was born as a result of Italian pianist Benedetto Boccuzzi’s love of Claude Debussy’s music. The program encompasses both music by Debussy himself and by several of the French master’s spiritual heirs.
Makrokosmos is a collection of short pieces for piano by the American composer George Crumb, from which Boccuzzi chooses six that musically describe the various temperaments of Taurus, Leo, Gemini (twice), and Pisces (twice). The work calls for all sort of techniques from the resourceful Boccuzzi, ranging from plucking of the strings to slamming down massive tone clusters to eliciting overtones from depressed keys not played, to humorously and evocatively quoting Chopin now and then.
Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus (“Twenty visions of the infant Jesus”) is a suite of 20 pieces for solo piano by the French composer Olivier Messiaen. Deeply spiritual, as is the case with most of this composer’s output, the three miniatures chosen and lovingly played by Boccuzzi range from the delicate Regard de l’étoile and Regard de la Vierge to the surprisingly blunt Regard des hauteurs.
The felicitous pairing of Debussy to Crumb to Messiaen – musical and aesthetic comrades – continues in this varied album with the addition of two names, one well known – Toru Takemitsu – one lesser known – the Rumanian Diana Rotaru, whose 2007 Debumessquisse salutes Debussy with imaginative wit. Takemitsu in turn states his own musical idea with Les yeux clos II (“With closed eyes”) and then salutes Messiaen with Rain tree sketch to both of which Boccuzzi brings non-pareil pianistic resourcefulness. Most impressively the protean Benedetto Boccuzzi brings his own exquisite arrangement of two Debussy Dances for harp and orchestra to joyously end this memorable debut album.
Mar. 4 - 2021
© Marco Del Vaglio, 2021
Digressione Music's cd 'À Claude' marks pianist Benedetto Boccuzzi's excellent discographic debut
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was undoubtedly one of the great protagonists of the twentieth century, even if he only briefly entered a century characterised by considerable changes in the field of classical music.
Despite the fact that his style often resulted in a break with traditional patterns, the French composer is considered by many concert-goers in our part of the world to be a sort of insurmountable limit, beyond which lies the notorious 'modern' music (the term used by the average concert-goer to define the pieces of all musicians born from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day).
This strange privilege is mainly due to some of his piano pieces, catalogued by the critics as 'impressionistic' (although this adjective was considered by him to be very reductive and therefore always firmly rejected), which continue to stimulate the imagination of enthusiasts.
But, returning to the innovative side, there is no doubt that Debussy influenced several generations of musicians who followed him over time.
This is precisely the theme of the cd "À Claude" by Digressione Music (a label from Puglia distributed by Milano Dischi), which marks the discographic debut of pianist Benedetto Boccuzzi.
The disc opens with Cloches à travers les feuilles, Et la lune descend sur le temps qui fût and Poissons d'or, three splendid examples of the impressionistic matrix that make up the second book of Images, dating from 1907.
They were dedicated, in order, to the engraver and sculptor Alexandre Charpentier, the musicologist Louis Laloy and the pianist Ricardo Viñes, all of whom gravitated in the Parisian cultural milieu.The short (quasi) Notturno, testimony to Boccuzzi's compositional ability, precedes some pieces taken from the first two volumes of George Crumb's Makrokosmos (1929), conceived for amplified piano and dated 1972 and 1973 respectively. There is no doubt that the title alludes to Bartók's Mikrokosmos which, together with Debussy, is one of the points of reference for the master of American music, but his output is not easily classifiable as the composer has taken various paths, without ever becoming fossilised, in a constant search for particular sounds and timbres, drawing on Western and Eastern rhythms and traditions.
This is a similar path to that taken, albeit in a more moderate way, by the French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), whose Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus is presented here, a suite marked by suggestions that the French composer was able to convey better than anyone else in the sphere of 20th-century sacred music. Conceived in 1944, the composition was dedicated to Yvonne Loriod (his pupil and later his second wife), who premiered it the following year at the Salle Gaveau in Paris. The following Debumessquisse, a youthful piece by Romanian Diana Rotaru (1981), has the merit of highlighting the thread linking Debussy to Messiaen, a connection that is prolonged thanks to the Japanese Tōru Takemitsu (1930-1996). Takemitsu, in his initial production, took the two musicians as a model for Western music, and it is no coincidence that one of the two pieces chosen to represent him is Rain tree sketch in memoriam Olivier Messiaen dating back to 1992.
The journey around Debussy's musicality closes with his Deux Danses pour harpe chromatique et orchestre d'instruments à cordes (Danse Sacrée and Danse Profane), in Benedetto Boccuzzi's own solo piano transcription.
As for the performer, it is first of all quite inexplicable that such an eclectic and talented artist has made his discographic debut at over 30 years of age. This is a real rarity in these times where, unlike in the past, a recording is no longer the crowning achievement of a prestigious activity, but only a main way for very young performers to increase their notoriety and accelerate the stages of an eventual successful career. With regard to the repertoire proposed, Boccuzzi has conceived a programme of all respect, bringing to the public authors, Debussy apart, rarely present in the programmes of the various musical associations (just to give an example, in many years of concert-going, we have only heard Crumb's Vox balaenae). It should also not be forgotten that the disc, as well as being a tribute to Debussy and his influence on the music of the 20th century, wishes to present to music lovers the concepts linked to the extended potential entrusted, from the 20th century to the present day, to an instrument such as the piano. A concept expressed very well by Boccuzzi in the short and interesting illustrative notes that accompany the CD, edited by musicologist Fiorella Sassanelli, to complete a disc of excellent workmanship that, thanks to a high-level performer, becomes a valuable aid to bring fans closer to a vast musical chapter so far ignored or rejected.
Mar. 15 - 2021
Classical Music Sentinel
© Jean-Yves Duperron, 2021
How do you like your piano music? Rigorous and highly logical like the Fugues of Bach, stern and structured like the Sonatas of Beethoven, poetic and passionate like the Nocturnes of Chopin, mystical like the Sonatas of Scriabin, or are you more in tune with the various effects, colors and impressionistic images the instrument can project. As the title of this recording and its connect-the-dots cover image suggest, all the pieces in this collection are either dedicated to, or influenced by the founding father of impressionism, Claude Debussy.
In the booklet notes, pianist and composer Benedetto Boccuzzi (b. 1990), defines this recording as "almost a family reunion, an ancestral tree that starts with Debussy and branches out through successive generations". And one could perceive the root of this tree as being the pursuit, discovery and creation of intangible and abstract imagery through free, open and unconfined expression. And what better piece encapsulates all this than Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut, played here with the deepest sense of shadowy mystique by Boccuzzi. His own (quasi) Notturno blends together sounds generated inside the piano with notes on the keyboard into an effectively remote soundscape. And no one can quite conjure up a sonic dreamscape like George Crumb. His Dream Images and Twin Suns for example could very well act as the soundtrack to anyone's personal daydreams, and again Benedetto Boccuzzi perfectly channels their nebulous atmosphere. And listening to some of Olivier Messiaen's music is like pondering the deepest theological subjects whilst living inside an aviary.
The website of Romanian composer Diana Rotaru (b. 1981) states that one of the expressive directions her music explores is hypnagogia, which is as close to a dreaming state as one can get. And Debumessquisse, with its fragmented ideas and rapid shifts from shards of light to darkness, certainly fits that profile. And as the title of Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu's Les yeux clos (eyes shut) suggests, only one's internal imagery can manifest itself. Boccuzzi closes the disc with his own highly compelling arrangements of two works by Claude Debussy originally scored for Harp and Orchestra, an instrument which summons, by its own nature, ephemeral imagery.
All in all a well-curated collection by Benedetto Boccuzzi which brings together iconic 20th century composers who collectively steered music towards a new trajectory and in doing so, redefined the role and character of the piano.
Mar. 23 - 2021
© Ettore Grazia, 2021
[...] Boccuzzi presents himself to the test of his discographic debut, skillfully driving his musical discourse towards a specific direction, the one he certainly feels is the main idiom of his expression: A Claude (this is the title of the CD) is, however, something more than the acceptance of a privilege, namely that of ultimately stigmatising Debussy's music, because it highlights a tripartition of the music of the early twentieth century that is very clear to all those who have dealt with classical music in depth; [...] Bocuzzi exploits, therefore, a golden musical channel, that of musical "transformism" which has its roots precisely in Debussy and his discoveries, but does not disdain the extensive use of the piano. [...] The American side is offered by Boccuzzi through accurate selections of George Crumb's Makrokosmos and it is impossible not to think of a link between French and American material with the two minutes of (Quasi) Notturno, a composition written by Boccuzzi [...]. Debumessquisse is a beautiful piece by Diana Rotaru that navigates a lot in the chordal suspensions with a central part lit up and complicated on the whole keyboard and it is a fundamental piece to discover the most relevant of Boccuzzi's qualities, that is to say that of knowing how to impress on the keys a disconcerting weight, which is perhaps a torture for the experts who love the graceful touch, but it is the perfection to amplify and represent at the maximum of their resources the acoustic resonances [...].
Mar. 28 - 2021
Corriere del Mezzogiorno
© Fabrizio Versienti, 2021
Benedetto Boccuzzi, the twentieth century on his fingers.
If Debussy is considered the origin of all twentieth-century pianism, classical, contemporary and jazz, Benedetto Boccuzzi does well to start from him and return to him, after a path full of internal references that goes as far as the American George Crumb, passing through Messiaen and Takemitsu; with two episodes in the new century, a piece written by Boccuzzi himself, (quasi) Notturno (2016) that seems to take Crumb's already extreme aesthetic acquisitions to extremes, and Debumessquisse by the Romanian Diana Rotaru (2006) that winks at the great father mentioned above. What is striking about Boccuzzi's solo debut is his ambition and clarity of ideas, as well as his absolute mastery of the instrument, understood both as musical technique and as physical body, given that he had already grappled with Debussy's Images to bring out esoteric resonances that with the Crumb of the Makrokosmos he "extends" to cover vast distances. In the middle, the Messiaen of the "Glances from Above" with his ornithologies, imitations of bird calls so precise and illuminating that they influenced many after him, starting with flute virtuosos such as Gazzelloni and Eric Dolphy. Here Boccuzzi is truly extraordinary. He extracts surprising sound articulations from the piano, following Messiaen in his obsession to reproduce the song of nightingales, blackbirds, finches, goldfinches and larks. In short, in this CD on the Apulian label Digressione, A Claude, Boccuzzi shows himself to be a pianist of superior intelligence. Not to be missed.
April 8 - 2021
The lark Reviews
© Stephen Page, 2021
This CD weaves together music by Debussy, Crumb, Messiaen Takemitsu, and Diana Rotaru together with a short piece and arrangements of Debussy by the performer. There are clear links between many of the works and together they make for a very entertaining, original programme. There is much to discover here.
May 4 - 2021
© Ferruccio Nuzzo, 2021
An exciting CD, the flower of sensitivity and intelligence, one of those rare and revealing works, the fruit of a lived and deepened passion. A sentimental journey that has Claude Debussy as its starting and finishing point, from the divine Claude of Images, Deuxième Série to the two Danses, sacre et profane for harp and orchestra that Benedetto Boccuzzi has transcribed for the piano, as a joyful conclusion to the programme.
A programme that Benedetto has conceived as an arborescence, following the course of the vital torrent that has irrigated and fertilised the generations that have followed Debussy and that have found nourishment and guidance in his aesthetic, formal and timbral research. From Olivier Messiaen - with three of his Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus and his interest in the sounds and modes of exotic cultures - to the Japanese Toru Takemitsu, inspired by Messiaen's harmonic world. Then there is the American George Crumb's Makrokosmos I and II - six very short compositions, a brilliant succession of surprising techniques to generate a sound that evokes, through associations and quotations, the great master of musical impressionism - and the Romanian Diana Rotaru who, with Debumessquisse, pays tribute to Debussy and Crumb at the same time.
Not forgetting the (quasi) Notturno that Benedetto, with sublime virtuosity and undisciplined devotion, dedicated to his Claude. This is his first CD: we hope that many more will be released soon.
A recording of exceptional quality, just what was needed to give wings to this music and to this great young virtuoso, born in New York from Apulian parents.
Jul 6th - 2021
© Jeremy Condliffe, 2021
The Claude in question is Mr Debussy but if you’re expecting an album of Clair de Lune delicacy you’d be mistaken, as Boccuzzi’s album takes off from where Debussy leads, moving from the dreamy to the avante garde, the idea being to show the link between Debussy and composers old and new, including Boccuzzi himself.
The opening piece is as might be expected, Cloches À Travers Les Feuilles being from Debussy’s Images suite. It was inspired by church bells and it gives the melodious sound of bells a watery feel. It is followed by Et La Lune Descend Sur Le Temple Qui Fut from the same suite, this one slightly darker and definitely more moonlight than water, and then Poissons D’or, both more eastern in sound.
(Quasi) Notturno is next, one of Boccuzzi’s own, and heads off where Debussy was pointing, impressionistic and atmospheric, at one point Boccuzzi playing the inside of the piano. It leads without any noticeable join into George Crumb, starting with his Pastorale (From The Kingdom Of Atlantis). Crumb is followed by Messiaen.
A lot of this was new to us and writing about it is harder than listening. Once the – as it transpires – easy listening of Debussy is over it’s an album that creates mood and atmosphere rather than offering up tunes and melody. It’s not hard but neither is it delicate, and you’ve got to get involved in the rough and tumble to enjoy it.
The sleeve notes and the quotes we found from Boccuzzi suggest intensity and arty earnestness, but we benefited from getting this from Benedetto himself, his message suggesting a polite man who also knows how to get his hands dirty selling his own works. We heard this more as a pianist wrestling works to his own ends and creating something new. Well worth a listen if you’re feeling adventurous.