RONDO - Das Klassik- & Jazz- Magazin [Germany]
CD zum Sonntag (weekly recommended CD from the RONDO editorial team)
Benedetto Boccuzzi was born in New York City in 1990 and is a pianist, improviser and composer. On his new album "Im Wald", he juxtaposes works by the Romantics Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert with contemporaries Jörg Widmann, Wolfgang Rihm and Helmut Lachenmann. This creates an aesthetic dialogue between the generations that depicts an expanded reality. In the two-part programme, the listener is invited to walk through an imaginary enchanted forest in which reality is repeatedly interrupted by fantastic episodes. The first half of the album presents Schumann's "Forest Scenes" alternating with five of Jörg Widmann's "Eleven Humoresques". The second half is based on a selection of seven songs from Franz Schubert's cycle "Schönes Mühlenmädchen" (piano transcription: August Horn), interspersed with Wolfgang Rihm's "Ländler" and Helmut Lachenmann's "Five Variations on a Theme by Franz Schubert". As an intermezzo between these two cycles, Boccuzzi places his electronic composition "Im Wald" (2022), which first "sonically expands" the piano, after which it is "filtered through the electronics", creating a new acoustic space.
Boccuzzi plays all these works with the composer's structural penetration; at the same time, his playing is also sonorous, virtuosic and full of lightness; just listen to Schumann's "Vogel als Prophet". In short: a multi-layered album by an exciting artist.
MUSICA (n. 339) [Italy]
© 2022 Luca Segalla
Im Wald ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
In the alembic of his second CD, the 30-year-old Benedetto Boccuzzi chemically combines Schumann and Schubert with contemporaries Widmann, Rihm and Lachenmann. The results are interesting. Right from the first tracks, in fact, the Italian pianist goes beyond the simple coupling of the old and the new, alternating and interweaving Schumann's Waldszenen with some of Widmann's 11 Humoreskens in an evocative interplay of mirror-images.
This is the same operation successfully performed by Andrea Lucchesini in a recent CD in which on the one hand Scarlatti was interwoven with Berio and on the other hand Schubert was interwoven with Widmann (cf. number 303 of MUSICA) and, some ten years ago, by Alexander Lonquich in a CD in which Schumann's Kreisleriana was accompanied by Heinz Holliger's Partita (cf. number 226 of MUSICA). In all these cases, also thanks to the three interpreters, the formal dimension takes precedence over the historical dimension, in a fruitful dialogue that opens up new listening perspectives.
Boccuzzi plays Schumann with simplicity, without too much inner maceration, and seeks above all the transparency of the timbre and the smoothness of the phrasing, leaving the task of animating the scene on a dramatic level to the intrusions of Jörg Widmann's music. After his hallucinated Im Wald for solo electronics, which gives the CD its title (the booklet is also in Italian: To be enjoyed), and represents a kind of watershed between the first part focusing on Schumann and the second part focusing on Schubert, the interplay of intersections becomes more complex and less immediate, because the communicative power of Widmann's music is replaced by the intellectual density of Wolfgang Rihm's Ländler, composed in 1979 in the midst of the avant-garde, in which the slow rhythm and sophisticated armonies deform the Schubertian source material to the point of making it almost unrecognisable.
These mournful and intellectual atmospheres are contrasted by the freshness and sweetness with which Boccuzzi deals with August Horn's 19th-century transcriptions of some Lieder from the cycle Die Schöne Müllerin, which are very faithful to the originals, a freshness that also reverberates in the Fünf Variationen über ein Thema von Schubert composed in 1956 by a 21-year-old Helmuth Lachenmann. The Variations, however, immediately veer towards a language that is harmonically harsher, and characterised by a virtuosic gesturality. The final bars of the Variations, which fade into silence, and then Schubert's Lullaby, which, when heard at the end of this long journey, becomes a symbol of rediscovered peace, bring Schumann's Waldszenen back to quietness.
Classic Voice (n. 264) [Italy]
© 2021 Paolo Petazzi
À Claude ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Monographic recordings may be preferred; but there is a coherent logic and not without suggestion in the path that Benedetto Boccuzzi proposes as an ideal homage to Debussy, not only because the pianism of Messiaen, Crumb and Takemitsu, although for each of them different and original, is unthinkable without the historical precedent of Debussy, but also because there are ideal affinities in the research on sound and in the conception of time, which tends to be static, suspended, dreamlike, and in any case not dialectical (which Boccuzzi's interpretations tend to emphasise with a certain slowness, evident especially in Takemitsu).
The journey begins with the second series of Debussy's Images (1907), continues with a sober, rarefied and gentle (quasi) Notturno by Boccuzzi himself and with a selection of six pieces by George Crumb (1929), taken from Makrokosmos I (III, VIII and IX) and Makrokosmos II (III, IV, XI). This is followed by the Messiaen of Regards sur l'enfant Jésus (II, IV and VIII), the Romanian Diana Rotaru (1981) with a short Debumessesquisse (2007) and two pages by Takemitsu, Les yeux clos II and Rain tree sletch II. Finally, we return to Debussy with Boccuzzi's own transcriptions of the two Danses for harp and orchestra. They have their own effectiveness; but one struggles to understand the reason for it. As a performer Boccuzzi accompanies the listener along this path with intelligence, confidence and finesse
The Whole Note [Canada]
© David Olds 2022
Editor's Corner - July 2022
Another disc that falls between two worlds is Im Wald conceived by, and featuring, pianist Benedetto Boccuzzi (Digressione Music DCTT126 digressionemusic.it). In this instance the two worlds are the piano music of the late classical/early Romantic era, juxtaposed with contemporary works by Jörg Widmann, Wolfgang Rihm and Helmut Lachenmann. While purists will likely be offended by the imposition of sometimes abrasive works into such beloved cycles as Schumann’s Waldszenen and Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin (in a piano arrangement) I personally find it refreshing and even invigorating. The first half of the disc involves a complete performance of the Schumann (Forest Scenes in English) with selected movements from Widmann’s Elf Humoresken (11 Humoresques) interspersed. Then as a “palette cleanser” Boccuzzi inserts an electronic soundscape of his own creation, Im Wald (Into the Woods). In the second half of the disc we hear eight of the 20 movements of the Schubert, this time “interrupted” by a Ländler by Rihm and Fünf Variationen über ein Thema von Schubert (not from Die schöne Müllerin) by Lachenmann. This latter is of particular interest to me as it is an early melodic work (1956) that predates the mature style I am familiar with in which Lachenmann focuses mainly on extra-musical timbres achieved through extended instrumental techniques.
Boccuzzi is to be congratulated not only for the overall design of this project, but for his understanding and convincing realization of the varying esthetics of these diverse composers.
© Ola Nordal 2022
https://www.ballade.no/kunstmusikk/ballade-klassisk-10/ (original in Norwegian)
ALESSANDRA ROMBOLÀ: György Kurtág – Blumen die Menschen, nur Blumen… (Stradivarius)
“Alessandra Rombolà is an Italian flautist who lives in Oslo. On this record, she has collected all the music that Hungarian György Kurtág has written for solo flute - so far. He is 96 years old, but still going.
Kurtág writes concise short pieces that are based around a few, crystal clear ideas. The word that best sums up his music is Jatekók – taken from the title of one of his collections of compositions. The word is Hungarian and means 'play'. But it is a serious game. Kurág's good humor is serious.
His music is imbued with an uncompromising belief in his own integrity - completely without the friendliness filter that today's contemporary music likes to install. Do you miss Boulez and Stockhausen? Then this is something for you.
Rombolà plays delicately, precisely and temperamentally. On several of the pieces, she is together with her compatriot Benedetto Boccuzzi on piano and Norwegian Håkon Thelin on double bass. They have immersed themselves deeply in Kurtág's demanding expression, and play the music with dignity and sincere respect. This deep conviction and involvement in the music makes Blumen die Menschen, nur Blumen... an extraordinary recording.
This is enough music that requires the ears to be tuned to an open channel. But inside each note from Rombolà's flute lies a small flower. Listen especially "Dühhös Korál" ('Angry Coral')”
The Art Music Lounge [United States]
© 2022 Lynn René Bayley
Benedetto Boccuzzi in the Musical Forest
“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!” is the first thing that came to my mind while listening to this unusual new album by the young (32-year-old) Italian pianist Benedetto Boccuzzi. Here, he juxtaposes Schumann’s Waldszenen, broken up and sprinkled throughout the CD, and excerpts from Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin with the far more modern music of Jörg Widmann’s Elf Humoresken (also broken up and interspersed), Wolfgang Rihm’s Ländler and Helmut Lachenmann’s 5 Variations on a Theme of Schubert in addition to one piece for electronics written by Boccuzzi himself.
In addition, Boccuzzi plays the Schumann and Schubert pieces in an objectivist style: no Romantic lingering, rubato, and very spare use of the pedal. Interestingly, this gives an entirely different perspective on their music, particularly since Widmann’s 11 Humoresques are not all that terribly radical, though indeed modern-sounding. Somehow or other, Boccuzzi makes Schumann and Widmann sound more or less alike, and I must say that this is as much a tribute to Schumann’s unusual musical progressions as it is to Boccuzzi’s way of playing him. Granted, some of the Widmann pieces are more radical sounding than others—check out No. 6, “Warum,” with its widely-spaced intervals and his having the pianist play the piano strings once in a while—but even here, as soon as he moves into “Verufene stelle” from Schumann’s Waldszenen, he almost establishes a musical kinship with the preceding Widmann piece via his unorthodox phrasing and touch. (The last Widmann piece that he plays, “Mit Humor und Feinsinn,” comes very close to sounding like Schumann.)
More than half the album, in fact, consists of this cat-and-mouse game between Schumann and Widmann; Boccuzzi doesn’t even get to the other composers until he had injected his strange electronics piece at track 15. It would be nice to say that this defies the usual sort of electronics piece; nice, but not true. It is simply extraneous noise that pretends to be a composition, like most such music. After the first minute and a half, I just skipped to the next track, which is “Das Wandern” from Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin, also played in a post-modern, non-Romantic manner. After two more pieces from the Schubert song cycle, we get Rihm’s Ländler, which actually starts out kind of Schubert-like (although playing the ländler at a very slow, almost funereal tempo) before shifting towards something much stranger at the 2:25 mark. And here, again, Boccuzzi draws an analogy by following this with one of the slower songs by Schubert, “Der Neugierge.” Even more interestingly, Lachenmann’s piece opens up in a very Schubertian vein before going out on a limb—more connections.
A very interesting album; not for everyone, perhaps, but thought-provoking and excellently played and programmed except for the electronics piece.
All About the Arts / Rafael's Music Notes [United States]
© Rafael de Acha, 2022
Benedetto Boccuzzi's In the forest
In Im Wald (In the Forest), an intriguing new album (DCTT126) for the Italian label Digressione Music, the gifted musical artist Benedetto Bocuzzi creates a richly varied program that juxtaposes the quintessentially Romantic Waldszenen Op. 82 (Forest Scenes) of Robert Schumann, and piano versions of Franz Schubert’s song cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Fair Maid of the Mill) with contemporary compositions by Jörg Widmann, Wolfgang Rihm, Helmut Lachenmann, and one by the artist himself.
Lied im Traume (Dream Song), Warum? (Why?), Glocken (Bells) and Mit Humor und Feinsinn (With Humor and Subtlety) – all excerpts from Jörg Widmann’s 2007 composition Elf Humoresken (Eleven Humoresques), provide a bracing atonal contrast to the iconic Romanticism of Schumann’s Waldszene (Forest Scenes). In an unexpected moment of boldness, Benedetto Bocuzzi – the composer – uses dreamlike effects in his electronic construct Im Wald (In the Forest).
Wolfgang Rihm’s 1979 work Ländler – a brace of folk dances in ¾ time – and Helmut Lachenmann’s 1956 Five Variations on a theme of Franz Schubert – both 20th century compositions – comment instrumentally in their diverse ways on Franz Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin (The Fair Maid of the Mill) the 1824 song cycle about tragically unrequited love.
Throughout the album’s two dozen selections, Bocuzzi excels with a flawless technique always at the service of Schumann’s descriptively soulful music, journeying from the restlessness of Jäger auf der Lauer (Hunters awaiting), traveling through Verrufene Stelle (Disreputable Place), basking in the serenity of Freundliche Landschaft (Welcoming Landscape), dealing with the harmonic and emotional uncertainties of Herberge(Hostel), exploring the spirituality of Vogel als Prophet (Prophetic Bird) and the virility of Jagdlied (Hunting Song), and memorably culminating in a heartfelt farewell Abschied.
From Schubert’s now sad, now joyous song cycle, based on poems by Wilhelm Müller, Bocuzzi plays several selections in excellent piano versions of several of the songs in Schubert’s cycle Die schöne Müllerin. Digging deep into the music, magisterially, delicately, and with deep musicality mining the youthful energy of Das Wandern (Wandering), and the myriad colors and emotions pianistically narrated in Danksagung an den Bach(Giving Thanks to the Creek), Am Feierabend (At Day’s End), Der Neugierige (The Curious One), Die liebe Farbe (The Beloved Color), Trockne Blumen (Wilted Flowers), and the deathlike tranquility of Des Baches Wiegenlied (The Lullaby of the Creek), Bocuzzi raises the bar high for musicians planning to explore this repertory in the future.
Perfectly packaged, authoritatively annotated, and exemplarily engineered, Im Wald instantly becomes upon repeated hearings an indispensable collection of the new and the old, brought to vibrant life by a major pianist-composer.
© Aart van der Wal, 2022
https://www.opusklassiek.nl/cd-recensies/cd-aw/boccuzzi02.htm (original review in Dutch)
Im Wald - Benedetto Boccuzzi
[...] The result is a sublime new album, in which Italian pianist and composer Benedetto Boccuzzi takes us by the hand, so to speak, on his adventurous 'walk in the woods' with surprising panoramas ahead, and with Schumann's Waldszenen op. 82. [...] In February 2021, I reviewed Boccuzzi's debut album, Á Claude, which also featured a narrative journey, and in this already highly creative process he also makes himself heard as a composer. As if, in my experience, there is a dialogue between him and the other composers he plays (Debussy, Crumb, Messiaen, Rotaru and Takemitsu).
We see that so evocative image again, though in a different context. Once again, I was captured by the range of Boccuzzi's expression in this album, the way he 'understands' these so very different works as a re-creative musician. Stylistically chameleonic, he has musically elaborated and connected the various parts; and equally exemplary is the pure wealth of sound that arises under his hands. Contrast with him is not a goal in itself, but part of a faceted world of feelings that piles one surprise on top of another by tapping into ever new expressive characterisations in this extremely fluid argument. Within this cleverly chosen and suspensefully constructed scenario (or model), the fact that Waldszenen is pulled apart, as it were, by the deliberately chosen programmatic structure means that the mood setting undergoes a constant change and, as a result, the (over)known is placed in a completely new perspective. Just as it might happen to the hiker during a long walk in the woods or along mountains and valleys. But perhaps this programme and its performance says most about the great creative scope of this musician of great allure. Whereby it will come as no surprise that even Boccuzzi's Im Wald (for solo electronics) carries a romantic undertone. It was composed especially for this album. The sound of the Fazioli F212 was captured particularly beautifully in Molfetta, Italy, on 11 December 2021 and 29 January 2022. Two days only for this recital: it certainly also says something about Boccuzzi's technique and his interpretatively solid anchors. The CD booklet by Benedetta Saglietti succinctly and clearly explains the various works.
Such a recital on the concert stage, possibly supported by explanatory notes and projection (e.g. images of paintings by Caspar David Friedrich) can really do wonders!
Corriere del Mezzogiorno [Italy]
© Fabrizio Versienti, 2022
https://www.pressreader.com/italy/corriere-del-mezzogiorno-puglia/20220514/281779927723469 (original review in Italian)
Lost in the romantic woods with Boccuzzi's piano
After his brilliant debut album À Claude in 2021, the pianist (Apulian, but born in New York in 1990) Benedetto Boccuzzi is back with a new work, Im Wald (Digressione Music label, like the previous one), which completely shifts the focus from the French Debussy and Messiaen (interspersed with pieces by George Crumb and Toru Takemitsu) to the cultural world of Austria, while maintaining the brilliant methodology applied in the debut, which consists of linking together classically 'repertoire' pieces and compositions by living composers, with a nice interplay of surprises and disorientations that helps the listener appreciate both more. Im Wald means 'In the forest', a romantic place par excellence, and the narrative that Boccuzzi develops is built on alternating excerpts from Robert Schumann's Waldszenen (Scenes from the forest) cycle (1848/49) and Jörg Widmann's Humoresken (2007), which were written with Schumann in mind; Humoreske was in fact the title of one of his most famous pieces (1839), and the very word of the title was for him a typically romantic indication of character and mood, a mixture of joy and sorrow in unstable balance. On the Fazioli of the Area Dig Studio, in Molfetta, Boccuzzi pulls from Widmann's scores a game of echoes and contrasts, of correspondences and escapes into the oneiric that enlivens Schumann's already surprising 'walk in the woods' in no small measure. The game is repeated in the second part of the album, with the interpolation of pieces from Franz Schubert's Lieder cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The beautiful miller, 1824) and contemporary pieces by Wolfgang Rihm, Ländler (1979), and Helmut Lachenmann's Fünf Variationen (Five Variations, 1956). Schubert's pieces, originally 'songs' for piano and voice, are here offered in August Horn's transcription for solo piano, which considerably dries them out. For their part, both Rihm's piece, inspired by the Austrian folk dance of the same name with its ternary rhythm (like the waltz), and those by Lachenmann, programmatically Variations on the theme of Schubert's German Dance, are juxtaposed with those of the Beautiful Miller, almost as if the protagonist of Schubert's cycle were the one who sings them, or dreams of them after falling asleep by the stream. Between these two ample pages, magnificently played and intelligently constructed by a performer who knows how to imagine paths outside convention, is a piece by Boccuzzi himself, Im Wald for solo electronics (2022), which serves as an intermezzo challenging the listener to a further test of courage; because here the piano is first 'augmented' timbrally and then filtered electronically, creating highly original sonorities that are articulated in an unheard-of language. In conclusion, Im Wald (the album) is a highly original work that suggests a different approach to the music of today and that of the past.
Gray Panthers [Italy]
© Ferruccio Nuzzo, 2022
A little over a year ago I spoke, with great enthusiasm, of the sentimental journey that Benedetto Boccuzzi proposed to us in his first CD, À Claude. A journey that had Claude Debussy as its starting and finishing point, and, through music inspired by or dedicated to the great composer, culminated in the (quasi) Notturno that Benedetto, with sublime virtuosity and undisciplined devotion, dedicated to his Claude. I concluded by wishing many future appearances by this young, original and surprising virtuoso born in New York from Apulian parents.
And now, for the same publisher - Digressione Music - Benedetto renews this enthusiasm with a fabulous CD that is an initiatory journey into the oneiric depths of an imaginary enchanted forest where reality is repeatedly torn apart by the bursting of disturbing fantastic hallucinations.
Once again, the starting point is in consecrated music from the piano repertoire, this time romantic: Robert Schumann (Waldszenen op.82) and Franz Schubert (excerpts from Die schöne Mullerin D.795, in the piano arrangement by A. Horn). And it is the compositions of Jörg Widmann (excerpts from Elf Humoresken), Wolfgang Rihm - Ländler (1979) - and Helmut Lachenmann's Fünf Variationen on a theme by Franz Schubert (1956) that, interspersing Schumann's and Schubert's compositions, evoke, as if in a liberating metamorphosis, their well-known themes and romantic atmospheres.
Im Wald, a rapid interlude for solo electronics by Benedetto Boccuzzi interrupts the adventurous sequence, between the real and the fantastic, in a moment of hallucinated madness.
The splendid, luminous recording and the dense and interesting booklet accompanying the CD, edited by music historian Benedetta Saglietti, are equal to the programme.
La Depeche [France]
Ferrandou: an amazing concert closes the 2022 edition
The Ferrandou Musique de Tauriac association ended its 2022 edition with the concert given in the Abbey of Saint-Pierre in Beaulieu on Saturday 13 August. On the stage in the middle of the choir of this magnificent abbey church, a black grand piano was placed, which Benedetto Boccuzzi played brilliantly in different ways, to give an astonishing and excitingly modern concert. This artist, only 32 years old, is an eclectic musician, pianist, composer, improviser and teacher. His programme that evening consisted of three separate sessions forming a whole. In each session he moved from early 20th century music with Claude Debussy, his favourite composer, to works by 21st century composers, including "Mélisme", created in 2022 by the composer Enea Chisci, which had its world premiere at Beaulieu!
The baritone founder of the association, David Wilson-Johnson, summed up the concert in his very personal French: "The silence, the concentration of the audience in the great acoustics of the abbey church moved me deeply... it was more than a concert, more than a show, but a moment of complicity and deep communication between Beni, this extraordinary musician, this instrument and the more than 150 people present. Of course a very difficult programme for some fuddy-duddies, but at the same time challenging and reassuring. It is such a pleasure to hear a pianist with an imaginative recital combining music from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of that century as well as the 21st. Would more artists have the artistic imagination and open-mindedness of Boccuzzi? We are increasingly convinced that Ferrandou Musique can offer local and transient audiences extraordinary and beneficial experiences.
The Art Music Lounge [United States]
© 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!
© 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!
All About the Arts / Rafael's Music Notes [United States]
© 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.
Critica Classica [Italy]
© 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.
Classical Music Sentinel [Canada]
© 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.
Percorsi Musicali [Italy]
© 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 [...].
Corriere del Mezzogiorno [Italy]
© 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.
The lark Reviews [United Kingdom]
© 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.
Gray Panthers [Italy]
© 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.
Review Corner [United Kingdom]
© 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.
The Whole Note [Canada]
© Andrew Timar, 2021
Twentiethcentury piano repertoire specialist, Benedetto Boccuzzi (b. 1990), is not only a concert pianist but also a composer, improviser and teacher. He regularly performs in Italy and conducts workshops on contemporary piano repertoire, extended techniques and improvisation.
À Claude, Boccuzzi’s debut album, is an eclectic keyboard feast, featuring works by Claude Debussy, George Crumb, Toru Takemitsu, Olivier Messiaen, Diana Rotaru and Boccuzzi himself. The programmatic conceit of the album pays homage to Debussy, before moving on to a selection of the French maître’s musical heirs.Beginning with three miniatures from Debussy’s Images: Cloches à travers les feuilles; Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut; and Poissons d’or (1907); the album sets a relaxed, impressionistic atmosphere inviting the listener to let imagination roam. Boccuzzi then very effectively renders six of American composer George Crumb’s texture- and allusion-rich Makrokosmos I (1972-1973). This collection of aphoristic piano pieces describes the temperaments of the houses of the zodiac, famously using an encyclo- pedic range of colouristic effects including plucking the strings, producing massive tone clusters, coaxing overtones from depressed keys not played and directly quoting music of composers such as Chopin.Three pieces of the Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus (1944) by French composer Messiaen receive a muscular perform- ance here, though sections of Regard de la Vierge exude a poignant cantabile quality. Particularly admirable is Boccuzzi’s precise rendering of the demanding birdcall refer- ences throughout.