For the Italian Giuseppe Martucci (1856-1909), Brahms’ music was an important source of inspiration. As a conductor and a teacher, he was an important champion of the contemporary music of his day, and he introduced new works by composers like Schumann, Brahms and Debussy to Italian audiences. His compositions were principally for his own use. His Second Piano Concerto was intended first of all to exhibit his own talent as a pianist. And yet, alongside the flamboyant passages, one also hears extensive melodies.
Unlike his contemporaries and countrymen, the Italian composer, pianist and conductor Giuseppe Martucci did not write operas. As a result, despite his talent he did not earn much recognition. His greatest achievement is probably the introduction of the great orchestral works by composers like Debussy, Berlioz, Schumann and Brahms to the Italian audiences. One of the high points of his career as a conductor was the Italian première of Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde in Bologna in 1888. As a teacher and later as director of the conservatory of Bologna and Naples, Martucci also fostered a wider view of music.
As a composer, Martucci wrote mainly for the piano, in addition to a few chamber works, two symphonies and two piano concertos. Between the summer of 1884 and October 1885, he completed his Second Piano Concerto Op. 66 in B Flat Minor. After the première in Naples in 1886 – with Martucci himself at the piano – the work was enthusiastically performed and received in major cities such as Saint Petersburg, Berlin and Brussels. The concerto became his best-known work. Franz Liszt, no less, was a big fan, and Toscanini also regularly put it on his concert programmes. In 1911, it was performed in New York at Mahler’s last concert as conductor.
Commentary by Aurélie Walschaert