Un Racconto del Tempo di Guerra (A War Tale) (1991), Carlo Pinto

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Un Racconto del Tempo di Guerra (A War Tale) (1991), Carlo Pinto
Year of Composition: 1991     Composed for the ASQ
Il Preludio
La Conflagracione
Il Dopoguerra


Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Saturday, February 9, 1991
In premiere, Pinto piece has fine moments
Herman Trotter

[This is a review of the world premiere of Carlo Pinto's Un Racconto del Tempo di Guerra (A War Tale) (1991), a work for Saxophone Quartet and large symphony orchestra...]

[Editor's note: This is a review of a full orchestral concert. The portion of this review that pertains to the Carlo Pinto premiere for sax quartet and orchestra is set here in bold text, while the rest is set in smaller text.]

Carlo Pinto has been a fixture on the musical scene in the Buffalo area for nearly 40 years. But the pianist, composer, conductor and University at Buffalo faculty member probably never was more  prominently in the spotlight than Friday evening when his new work, commissioned for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet and the Buffalo Philharmonic, was given its world premiere under the baton of George Cleve.

As guest conductor for this pair of Classics Series concerts, Cleve, however, had to deal with the larger matter of program balance. He did it very well.

Be opened with Haydn's Symphony No. 83 in G minor ("The Hen"). Cleve and the slightly reduced orchestra did a nice balancing act here, producing a performance that was taut and bracing, yet did not cross the line to become hard driven.

One of the most winning aspects of the performance was the extreme naturalness with which the many sudden dynamic changes were realized, usually coming on the audience with some element of surprise. Yet, for all the brio and dynamic flexibility, an element of Haydnesque grace still was present or lurking just around the next phrase.

And despite a couple of errant attacks, the performance as a whole was marked by good ensemble, a well centered sonority and a sense of satisfaction lingering in the mind afterward.

The concert concluded with Elgar's "Enigma" Variations. This was my first experience with Cleve, but in the Elgar, too, he exhibited a strong control of the shaping and nuancing of the work's dynamic contours. In a couple of places, I felt he let dynamics get a bit out of hand, as in the rambunctious fourth variation where sectional balances were thrown off.

But the line through the work was consistent, and in the incomparable Nimrod (Jaeger) Variation. Cleve and the orchestra found the rich center of this glorious music, intoning its "nobilmente" statement with profound effect.

Pinto describes the form of his "Un Racconto del Tempo di Guerra" (A Story From Time of War) as "somewhere between a full-scale concerto and a tone poem." And even though it has many prominent passages for the quartet or individual saxophones. I would have to say, on the basis of Friday's performance, that the earmarks of a tone poem were much more prominent than evidences of concerto form.

The new work consists of three movements called "Prologue to War," Conflagration" and "Aftermath." Pinto's musical style is basically tonal. He has written a work that only the most conservative ears will find disturbingly aggressive or upsetting. And he has devised many strikingly effective means for musical description of the subject events. In appropriate places it has a Yugoslavian folk tune, an interlude reminiscent of Enesco's Romanian Rhapsodies, snarling low register sounds of ominous conflict, and in the final movement the bells of peace, an air of unbridled gaiety, jazz and swing influences, all concluded with a sudden and unexpected upturn without any preparation.

Lack of good musical ideas is not a problem for Pinto here. Countless brief sections of the new work were very compelling and effective. Pinto also seems far more at home as an orchestrator than as an organizer.

His problem seems to be in tying musical thoughts together convincingly. Despite the many moments of real musical insight, the work as a whole had little feeling of orderly process or progress, but merely a random or grab-bag lurching from one idea to the next, and the solo saxophone quartet often seemed less than integral to the goings on.

Today's performance will be preceded at 7 p.m. by a performance of Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" Quartet by a string quartet of orchestra members.

Un Racconto del Tempo di Guerra (A War Tale) (1991), Carlo Pinto
In premiere, Pinto piece has fine moments

Composition Notes

by Edward Yadzinski

Carlo Pinto (b.1925)

Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra
Un Racconto del Tempo di Guerra (A Story from the Time of War)

Il Preludio     Prologue to War
La Conflagrazione     The Conflagration
Il Dopoguerra     The Aftermath

Buffalo composer Carlo Pinto has provided the following commentary for this world premier of Un Racconto del Tempo di Guerra.

When I undertook the commission to compose a concerto-like work for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet (made possible by a generous grant from Harry and Judith Stainrook), I wished to accomplish several goals simultaneously. I envisioned a piece in a slightly different musical form and structure (different from current practices), and I also wanted to compose a concerto that hopefully would not require an inordinate amount of rehearsal time, in order for it to be usable as a vehicle for the ASQ to perform with most symphony orchestras. Another goal was that the piece should have relative accessibility to general audiences and at the same time possess meaning on several musical levels.

The structure of the work itself is a hybrid, somewhere between a full-scale concerto and a tone-poem. As a concerto it contains the usual three movements, here presented in a continuum. As a tone-poem it follows a very definite course of events, although it leaves any specific associations up to the imaginations of the listeners. The only guidelines for the audience are the clues to the overall story which may be derived from the main title: Un Racconto del Tempo di Guerra and the three subtitles: Il Preludio; La Conflagrazione; Il Dopoguerra. The 'action' takes place in Yugoslavia and Italy during World War II. In a sense, this is an expression of an individual consciousness experiencing and reacting to cataclysmic cultural changes.

The members of the saxophone quartet are featured both as soloists and as an ensemble, but the orchestra is almost an equal partner in the narration. The music makes liberal use of many of the past and current styles, and the 'plot' gave me a unique opportunity to include several ethnomusical settings.

During an interview composer Pinto also added that each of the saxophonists has a brief cadenza opportunity. Also, with regard to the ethnomusical ideas, the first movement harbors a Yugoslavian folk tune. It also contains an autobiographical caption of a very young student trying to learn Mozart at the piano. The sustained sound of the tam tam is the bridge between movements as The Conflagration opens. The end of the war is marked by chimes and church bells (which Pinto recalls from real life.) The peal connects directly to the 3rd movement, a pastiche of musical memories which include a Viennese waltz in 5/8, a tango, a reference to Glenn Miller's In the Mood, a tarantella, a Venetian melody and a brightly paced fugue which sets the pace to the big orchestral close.


Buffalo News, The
Pinto's new work tells a tale of war

News Music Critic

Composer Carlo Pinto is a rather quiet. introspective man who is little inclined to talk about his past.

But in his latest work, written for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Pinto has let down the barriers and become somewhat autobiographical.

The new composition will be premiered at the orchestra's 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday Symphony Series concerts in Kleinhans Music Hall.

Commissioned by the Amherst Saxophone Quartet under a grant from Harry and Judith Stainrook, Pinto's work is titled "Un Racconto del Tempo di Guerra" (A War Tale).

"The work is about a half-hour long. and is in a hybrid form with clements of both a tone poem and a concerto," Pinto told The Buffalo News. "It's divided into three movements played without pause," he added. "but because of the dramatic changes of mood there should be no doubt in the audience's minds where the movement transitions occur."

The titles of the three movements are "II Preludio," which Pinto says is meant to imply a prelude both to the work and to the war; "La Conflagracione," meaning the conflict, and "II Dopoguerra," which the composer describes as the situation after the war.

It's the working out of that rudimentary program for "Un Racconto" that moves the new work into the autobiographical realm.

"In a sense, it is an individual consciousness reacting to a cataclysmic cultural change," the composer said.

"The inspiration for this piece springs from my memories of events which took place in Yugoslavia and Italy during World War II.

"I was too young to be in the army in 1943, so I became an an active member of a resistance brigade called New Italy. Because of these activities I was pretty well-known and feared by the Fascist troops, and in August of 1944 was captured and held prisoner.

"One day I was led out with a group of other prisoners, blind-folded and lined up to be shot. But at the last minute the commanding officer, for reasons we never understood, changed his mind and told the firing squad to put down their rifles.

"The next thing I knew I was being exchanged for two Fascist officers and was free again. So I rejoined the resistance and spent the rest of the war working for them."

Pinto cautions listeners that, despite these harrowing experiences in Yugoslavia and Italy, he has not used any music native to those countries in his new composition.

"It all comes from me," he said emphatically, "but don't expect literal musical descriptions of those incidents, and least of all don't look for any onomatopoetic sounds. The music employs a number of styles. I'm not trying to build bridges to a new musical land, just using the existing bridges in my own way.

"It's really a tone poem without a specific program, even though it will be obvious that there are references to everyday life. There's even a fugue at one point, and other things like dancing, a tango, a tarantella, and boogie-woogie related to American troops arriving.

"I even included a small joke in the first movement during a Yugoslavian episode which has someone practicing the piano in the background in the style of Mozart, but a bit raggedy and without a good sense of rhythm."

Pinto concluded his observations by saying that he was determined that this music should be accessible to general audiences, with meaning on several levels, and should feature the members of the ASQ both as soloists and as a group, with the orchestra an equal partner in the musical marriage.

After the war Pinto was on the staff of the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory in Venice, where he was accompanist for Toti dal Monte, Tito Schipa and several other leading vocalists.

He moved to Buffalo in 1952. playing in the old Town Casino and on a morning WKBW radio program while completing his master's degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. Since 1962 Pinto has been on the UB music faculty, where he now holds the title of professor of piano.

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet was moved to commission the new work on the strength of the considerable success of Pinto's 1985 Saxophone Quartet. After its premiere, The Buffalo News review opined that it "speaks the musical language of process, of question and answer, of demand and response." adding that it would "amply repay additional hearings."

In 1989 The News got that additional hearing. The review this time was even more positive. praising its "jewel-like, intricate beauty" and suggesting that it "should be a candidate for recording."

Directing the Philharmonic and the Amherst Saxophone Quartet in the premiere performances of Pinto's "Un Racconto del Tempo di Guerra" will be guest conductor George Cleve, who has been music director of the San Jose Symphony Orchestra since 1972.

Cleve will also conduct Haydn's Symphony No. 83, nicknamed "The Hen" because the Paris audience in 1785 thought they heard in the first movement's second theme an oboe figure that resembled clucking sounds.

He will conclude next weekend's concerts with Elgar's "Enigma Variations." which draws character sketches of the composer, his wife and 12 close friends in the variations on a halting and fascinating enigmatic original theme, whose origin and meaning have yet to be fathomed. Its ninth variation remains one of the most exalted examples of nobility and heart-stopping beauty in the symphonic literature.

Immediately after the Friday concert there will be a talk-back, question-and-answer session in the Kleinhans auditorium led by Tom Crann of WNED-FM and with both Cleve and the members of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet participating. At 7 p.m. Saturday there will be a pre-concert recital by four Philharmonic musicians on the stage of Kleinhans. Violinists Robert Prokes and Alan Ross. violist Leslie Salathe and cellist Nancy Anderson will play Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" Quartet.


Amherst Sax Quartet: Pinto's new work tells a tale of war
Amherst Sax Quartet: Pinto's new work tells a tale of war