• Benjamin Frankel
  • Pezzi Pianissimi (1964)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • clpfvc
  • 7 min

Programme Note

Although best known for his cycle of 8 powerful and individual symphonies, Benjamin Frankel (1906-73) was active in all fields of composition including opera, jazz and film music. Throughout his life he remained faithful to his love of chamber music, and came to prominence after the war through important performances of some of his smaller scale works: the 2nd String Quartet was given with great success at the ISCM, the 4th Quartet was regularly performed by, inter al, the Amadeus Quartet, and the 1st Violin Sonata achieved wide popularity and a gramophone recording.

Pezzi Pianissimi was composed in 1964, and is the second piece he wrote for this combination of instruments. It is one of Frankel's most intimate works, a piece of the greatest refinement and delicacy. Strictly speaking it is serial, but handled in such a personal manner that the method never obtrudes. The material, which is almost pure exposition, has a Webern-like transparency and purity. It is devoid of gesture or padding, and everything happens on an almost microscopically small time span of a few bars. The movements are marked Andante, Allegretto, Molto adagio and Tempo di Walzer, and despite the unity of mood, he manages to interpolate a quite remarkable range of expression within his self-imposed restrictions of dynamic. The four miniatures together last only about 7 minutes but the effect is out of all proportion to the duration. The work is a paradox of intensity and understatement, with the material distributed among the instruments with great subtlety and the masterly craftsmanship so characteristic of the composer.

© 1986 Giles Easterbrook