Since joining up with ECM as a member of Italian Instabile Orchestra, responsible for 1995's Skies of Europe, reedman Gianluigi Trovesi has created a small but diverse body of work that has stretched the boundaries of composition and improvisation to include sources ranging from William C. Handy to Kurt Weill. Whether in duet with accordionist Gianni Coscia, his curiously configured Ottetto or the chamber trio responsible for the sublime Vaghissimo Ritratto (2007), a defining characteristic has been a fearless irreverence for tradition, all the while making it perfectly clear that his music couldn't come anywhere but from what has come before.
In contrast to the intimacy of Vaghissimo, Profumo Di Violetta is a boldly ambitioussometimes melodramatic, occasionally humorous and often sublimely beautiful yet never over-the-tophomage to Italian opera and the North Italian provincial banda, the horn-driven (there are no strings to be found) orchestras often heard in Giuseppe Verdi operas. It's a thoroughly engaging hour-long performance that takes popular composer Gioachino Antonio Rossini's statement, "How wonderful opera would be if there were no singers," and makes it a reality. With three primary instrumentsTrovesi, cellist Marco Remondini, and drummer Stefano Bertoliaccompanied by the 55-piece Filarmonica Mousike, conducted by Savino Acquavivait's a trip through history that's filtered through the present. Trovesi arranges material excerpted from popular Italian operas including La Traviatta, The Barber of Seville, and Tosca, combining it with like-minded original writing and improvisational passages that blur the temporal distance between music spanning four centuries.
There are even hints of modern technology, as the banda performs the familiar "Largo al factotum," from Rossini's Barber of Seville, faithfully, but leaves space for Remondini to solo with a heavily distorted and wah-wah'd cello. Elsewhere the integration of improvisation is more seamless and less jarring, as Trovesi soars over his own "Vespone," one of many original compositions that may be contemporary, but feel completely of a kind with the source material around it.
Trovesi may lean towards the majestic on "Toccata," from Montverdi's L'Orfeo, the playful on "Stizzoso, mio stizzoso," from Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's La Serva Pardrona, and the traditionally rooted on the brief, public domain "Antico saltarello," but there's no shortage of haunting beauty on Profumo Di Violetta. Still, it's the narrative arc of Profumo Di Violetta that gives it its weight, as Trovesi's own trifecta of the sparsely elegant "Musa" leads to greater improvisational elan on the more rhythmically propulsive "Euridice" and, finally, grandiose drama on the powerful "Ninfe avernali," where the clarinettist solos with the greatest abandon.
Perhaps most impressive is how Trovesi has taken snippets from so many sources and joined them together into a seamless program that's as much a history lesson in Italian operatic tradition and regional music-making as it is a piece of music to be taken on its own merits. After experiencing the broad emotional range of Profumo Di Violetta, it's possible that those scared off by the often larger-than-life and melismatic nature of operatic vocals will find them more approachable.
Track Listing: IL PROLOGO: Alba; IL MITO: Toccata, Musa, Euridice, Ninfe avernali, Frammenti orfici; IL BALLO: Intrecciar Ciaccone; IL GIOCO DELLE SEDUZZIONI: "Pur ti miro," "Stizzoso, mio stizosso," Vespone; L'INNAMORAMENTO: Profumo di Violetta Part I, "Ah, fors'e lui che l'anima," Profumo di Violetta Part II, Violetta e le alter; ILK SALTELLA GIOIOSO: "E Piquillo, um bel gagliardo," Salterellando, Antico salterello, Salterello amoroso, "Largo al factotum"; LA GELOSIA: Aspettando compare Alfio, "Il cavello scalpita"; L'EPILOGO: Cosi, Tosca.