Dambrosio violin 96727

Alfredo d’Ambrosio (1871-1914)
Complete Music for Violin and Piano
Gran Duo Italiano
rec. 2021/22, Centro Studi Musicali Rosario Scalero, Polla, Italy

The salon muse was graced at the turn of the century by the sadly short-lived Alfredo d’Ambrosio. Both he and his cousin Luigi – who taught Salvatore Accardo – studied with a pupil of Ferdinand David in Naples, then moving on to take lessons from Sarasate. Soon d’Ambrosio gravitated to France, most prominently Paris and Nice. There he earned some small cachet through his recordings for the APGA label, setting down 11 of his own pieces coupled with morceaux by Hubay, Massenet, Raff and Schumann amongst others. His sound is light and refined and perfectly scaled for his own works.

D’Ambrosio’s salon charmers have now been collected in a three-CD collection which sensibly arranges them by opus number, where there is one, to provide a full three hours of sparkling miniatures.  Full of ingratiating warmth, and occasionally some tristesse, a number of them bear dedications to some of the most significant players of d’Ambrosio’s time, such as Sarasate himself, Hugo Heermann, the Czechs Jaroslav Kocian and Jan Kubelík, Jacques Thibaud and August Wilhelmj, with whom, I believe, d’Ambrosio also studied briefly in London. The Canzonetta and Serenata were the most popular pieces for recording artists of the first quarter of the twentieth-century, not least the Auer-trained triumvirate of Heifetz, Zimbalist and Elman, who all made recordings of d’Ambrosio’s music.

The Gran Duo Italiano of Mauro Tortorelli (violin) and Angela Meluso (piano) are sensitive, perceptive, and stylish exponents of this music. They shape the Canzonetta well and are attentive to nuance and dynamics, whilst in the Romanza, Op.9 Tortorelli essays a slick slide that brings glamour to proceedings. The piece d’Ambrosio dedicated to Sarasate is the Mazurka, Op.11 which is full of skittish bonhomie with a warmly textured B section and solo passage for the violinist. The Aubade, Op.17 is especially fine, a charmingly insouciant opus full of Gallic whimsy. It strikes me, yet again, when I listen to the piece he dedicated to Jan Kubelík, the Aria, Op.22, just how full of melancholy it is – and it has one or two slightly Dvořákian turns of phrase.

Svelte, playful Hungarian influence permeates the Introduction et Humoresque that he dedicated to the now little-remembered Edie Reynolds and there’s fine, refined distribution of material for both players in the Berceuse, Op.30. The Caprice-Sérénade in E major was dedicated to Wilhelmj and it’s full of tricky passagework in the central section. There aren’t many postcards from home, that’s to say Neapolitan evocations, though there are several in various guises. The first is Chanson napolitaine with its teasingly inbuilt rubati, there’s Chanson napolitaine in CD2 and in CD3 there’s a Tarantelle napolitaine, Op.45. Aveu Op.38/1 has tender lyricism but for a slightly bigger-scaled look, there’s the Ballade, Op.39 dedicated to Vittorio Monti, composer of the (in)famous Csárdás. For Monti, d’Ambrosio writes a rhapsodic, ruminative piece very far removed from the glitz, glamour and happy vulgarity of the Csárdás.

The Serenata is lightly bowed whilst the Elegie, Op.48 is a unusually moody piece. D’Ambrosio explores pizzicati in his Opp.50 and 53. Firstly in the Serenatella he opens with dapper pizzicati patterns as a prelude to long legato lines whereas in the Aubade, Op.53 he again employs pizzicati but to more up-beat effect. The Napoli-Sérénade is his last tribute to his hometown and appropriately it’s a sultry and rhythmically vivid piece. Though d’Ambrosio was known as the ‘Italian Kreisler’ his salon pieces were up-to-date and differed significantly from the Austrian’s. The only piece that reminded me in any way of Kreisler was the baroque-leaning Intermède Louis XV, Op. 55.

This is, I think, the only set devoted to d’Ambrosio’s complete violin and piano works. The performances are accomplished, and the recording is finely balanced. If you want to widen your d’Ambrosio adventure, you should know that I’ve just reviewed a DVD that contains all the dedicated pieces and that both of his violin concertos are available on a single DVD (review). There is one further piece of good news: the accomplished notes are by Gianluca La Villa.

Jonathan Woolf

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Serenade, Op. 4

Canzonetta, Op. 6

Romance, Op. 9

Mazurka in D minor, Op. 11

Strimpellata in G minor, Op. 12

Cavatina in F sharp minor, Op. 13

Sicilienne, Op. 14

Berceuse, Op. 15 (A Mireille)

Novelletta No. 1, Op. 16

Aubade in G major, Op. 17

Rêverie in A major, Op. 18 (A Mlle Jeanne Vautier)

Novelletta No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 20

Feuille d’album, Op. 21

Aria in D minor, Op. 22 (A Jan Kubelík)

Arietta, Op. 23

Orientale in D minor, Op. 24 (A Jacques Thibaud)


Introduction et humoresque, Op. 25 (A Edie Reynolds)

Madrigal, Op. 26

Romanza in G major, Op. 27 (A Joseph Debroux)

Deuxième canzonetta, Op. 28

Berceuse, Op. 30

Caprice-Sérénade in E major, Op. 31 (A August Wilhelmj)

Sonnet Allègre, Op.35 No.1

Nocturne, Op.35 No.2

Chanson napolitaine, Op.37 No.1

Mélancolie, Op.37 No.2

Valse Op.38 No.1

Aveu, Op.38 No1 (A Achille Simonetti)

Le Rouet, Op.38 No.2 (A Ernesto Centola)

Ballade in G minor, Op. 39 (A Vittorio Monti)


Serenata in G major, Op. 40

Burlesque, Op. 43

Racconto in A major, Op. 44

Tarentelle napolitaine, Op. 45

Elégie, Op. 46

Troisième canzonetta, Op. 47 (A Mlle Suzanne Decourcelle)

Idylle, Op. 48 (A Mr Georges de Franco de Almodovar)

Serenatella in E major, Op. 50 (A Fernand Monge)

Aubade, Op. 53 (A Mario Frosali)

Napoli-Sérénade, Op. 54 (A G. Bonincontro)

Intermède Louis XV, Op. 55

Ariette, Op. 56

À ton reveil