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The notes D, E-flat, F and G walk into a bar… this set-up describes the opening of Mercy, from a collection of the orchestral music of Paolo Marchettini. An E-natural creeps in, bringing ambiguity with it. Sometimes the E sounds a note of warmth, other times it harshly clashes with two neighbouring pitches. Where is mercy, one might ask? The walls of this perfect fourth confine the ear, or protect it: prison or sanctuary? The gentle tone, and palette limited to the colours of strings, senza vibrato, gives way to menace in the middle section, brassy bombast overpowering the opening textures. Mercy is deferred until the final minutes, where a violin solo offers kindness.
The Months have ends sets five Emily Dickinson poems for soprano and orchestra. Alda Caiello has the necessary vocal power to match the forces accompanying her, but the mix sometimes favours the instrumentals to the point of overpowering the voice. I find the brashness of the music at odds with my feeling for Dickinson’s words, but it is bracing to hear her poetry brought into the contemporary idiom. There are audible artifacts of live performance here and elsewhere, some emanating from the podium!
Notturno follows the pattern of Mercy, exploring relationships of pitches and tone within a limited frame, here juxtaposing a perfect fourth against a contrasting whole-tone dyad. Marchettini performs ably as soloist in his Concertino for Clarinet, an effective introspective addition to the contemporary rep for the instrument. The orchestra of the Manhattan School of Music mostly keeps their end of the bargain in these two pieces. Aere perEnnius is an homage to Marchettini’s compatriot colleague, Ennio Morricone; it alternates between melancholia and bombast.