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Nicolas Flagello

Nicolas Flagello was one of the 20th century¹s leading exponents of

traditional late romantic musical values. Without ever repudiating this

aesthetic outlook, he succeeded in forging a personal musical language and a

distinctive body of work shaped by his own

temperament and embodying his own unique perspective on life.

Born in New York City in 1928, Flagello grew up in a musical family with

deep roots in old-world traditions. Something of a prodigy, young Nicolas

was composing and performing publicly as a pianist before the age of ten. 

While still a child, he began a long and intensive apprenticeship with composer 

Vittorio Giannini, who further imbued him with the enduring values of the grand

European tradition. His study continued at the Manhattan School of Music,

where he earned both his Bachelor¹s (1949) and Master¹s (1950) degrees,

joining the faculty immediately upon graduation and remaining there until

1977. During the early l950s, he won a Fulbright Fellowship to study in

Rome, and earned the Diploma di Studi Superiori in 1956 from the Accademia

di Santa Cecilia, under the tutelage of Ildebrando Pizzetti.

During the years that followed, Flagello composed at a prodigious rate,

producing a body of work that includes six operas, two symphonies, eight

concertos, and numerous orchestral, choral, chamber, and vocal works. In

addition, he was active as a pianist and conductor, making dozens of

recordings of a wide range of repertoire from the Baroque period to the 20th

century. In 1985 a deteriorating illness brought his musical career to an

end prematurely. He died in 1994 at the age of 66.

As a composer, Flagello held with unswerving conviction to a view of

music as a personal medium for emotional and spiritual expression. This

unfashionable view, together with his vehement rejection of the academic

formalism that dominated musical composition for

several decades after World War II, prevented him from winning acceptance

from the reigning arbiters of taste for many years. However, gradually Flagello¹s

works have begun to win enthusiastic advocacy, as his music is recorded and

performed with increasing regularity. This compact disc presents five works that have never been

recorded before. They exhibit the full evolution of his creative development

and embrace the many facets of his musical personality.

The Overture Burlesca and Piano Concerto No. 2 date from the 1950s and

represent Flagello¹s early compositional phase. The Overture Burlesca was

composed in 1952, when Flagello was 24. Its first public performance was

given by the Colorado Philharmonic in 1974, under the direction of Carl

Topilow. Though brief, light, and spirited, the somewhat sinister flavor of

its thematic material produces a restless undercurrent.

Flagello sought in his early works to make his own contribution to the

romantic heritage he loved in the language that was most natural to him.

Sounding ³original² or ³different² held no appeal for him. What keeps these

early works from sounding like pale imitations is their solid construction,

intense conviction, and authenticity of expression. Providing strong support

for their surging melodies and powerful climaxes is the most thorough

attention to formal values‹motivic economy, thematic unity, and true

symphonic development, built upon contrapuntal substructures that reveal as

much appreciation for the architecture of Brahms as for the passion of

Puccini and the virtuosity of Rachmaninoff. These were the values he learned

from Giannini, yet characteristic usages‹certain turns of phrase, a

distinctive sad sweetness, and an explosive volatility of temperament‹are

distinctly Flagello¹s own and anticipate the works yet to come.

These qualities are readily apparent in the Piano Concerto No. 2,

composed in 1956 and one of the major works of Flagello¹s early phase. On

first hearing, the concerto conveys the familiar rhetoric of the genre,

replete with thundering octaves, dreamy soliloquies,

cascading arpeggios that lend an almost ³Hollywood² quality to the throbbing

melodies and fistfuls of virtuoso passagework that build to huge climaxes.

Yet despite its extroverted character, the concerto is brilliantly constructed, 

its entire substance derived from the

six-note motif introduced by the piano at the outset. This motif, in a state

of continuous metamorphosis and development, forms the basis of all three

movements of the concerto.

The first movement, Allegro giusto, is an abbreviated sonata-allegro form featuring an

animated first theme in C minor and a melancholy secondary theme in A minor.

After these ideas are presented and elaborated in a variety of guises the

movement culminates in a tremendous climax that combines all the material

heard thus far.

The second movement, Andante giusto, follows without pause, and features

a warm, wistful melody in the woodwinds soon elaborated by the piano. Gradually this

melody reveals itself as an inverted form of the concerto¹s opening motif.

This is transformed into a stentorian statement before melting into the movement¹s centerpiece‹a

variant of unabashed tenderness that rises to a luxuriant climax.

Once this outpouring recedes, a rather impish transition gradually

leads to the finale: Allegro quasi presto. Almost as if to scorn the

shameless sweetness of the preceding sections, this movement proclaims

itself with a swagger, as the C minor motif from the opening movement now

appears in a raucously harmonized C Major. This theme is developed in

alternation with a minor-key inverted variant of the basic motif through the

full range of traditional virtuoso pyrotechnics. Finally, as the energy builds, the

concentration of material intensifies, and all thematic elements are

combined toward a grand finish.

Only six years separate the Second from the Third Piano Concerto, but

the differences are many. In 1959, Flagello attained his mature musical

voice‹a sort of Italianate expressionism characterized by tremendous emotional intensity and

concentration of effect, as every element is focused toward the fullest

realization of the intended expression. From this time until the late 1960s,

Flagello produced music at a rapid rate, with a remarkably high consistency

of both vision and craftsmanship. In the year 1962 alone when the Third

Piano Concerto was composed, he also wrote a Piano Sonata, a dramatic scene

called Dante¹s Farewell, the Capriccio for Cello and Orchestra, and the

first version of a Te Deum ‹all among his finest and most deeply searching

creations. However, also at this time, Flagello developed the habit of

leaving completed works in short score, intending to orchestrate them at a

later time. Unfortunately, many such works remained in this state at his

death. The Third Piano Concerto was scored in 1994 by composer Anthony

Sbordoni, who made a thorough study of Flagello¹s orchestration technique

before undertaking the task.

A comparison of the two concertos provides an illuminating example of

Flagello¹s stylistic maturation. The forms, means of development, and

aesthetic principles are essentially identical, yet the works are entirely different in effect. In the later work

there is a greater tightness of phraseology, density of texture, astringency

of harmonic language, and asymmetry of rhythm. But most important, there is a deeper, more personal

quality‹dark, brooding, restless, and agitated, frequently erupting into

cataclysmic explosions. Like the Second Concerto, the Third is based almost

entirely on a single motif, in this case a four-note descending

scale-pattern heard first in the violas at the opening of the Lento quasi

adagio introduction. A short cadenza, which recurs at key points during the

movement, leads into the Allegro vivace ma giusto, based on material derived

from the opening motif. These ideas are developed and elaborated in a series

of intensely charged episodes in various tempos. In contrast to the

primarily lyrical character of the previous concerto, the tone here is

turbulent and aggressive, until a return of the opening cadenza leads

directly into the second movement.

The Lento andante opens as the horn introduces a somber statement of the

main motif by the brasses. The piano develops this into a gloomy nocturne

whose dolorous tone is relieved by moments of bittersweet tenderness. This

leads directly into a lugubrious ³ghost-march,² whose tortured mood

culminates in a climax that seems to convey both triumph and despair.

The finale, Allegro molto, follows without pause. Its character might be

described as a demonic ³tarantella from hell,² in which the concerto¹s basic

motif predominates in clearly recognizable form. The movement pursues its

alternately grotesque and tempestuous course, finally leading to a coda

marked Con piú entusiasmo, in which the intensity reaches a febrile pitch as

the concentrated development of thematic material is focused toward a

decisive conclusion.

Vittorio Giannini composed his last opera, The Servant of Two Masters,

an opera buffa based on a play by the l8th century Italian dramatist Carlo

Goldoni, shortly before his death in 1966. Although the opera was

essentially complete, Giannini had not provided an overture. Several months

later, early in 1967, Flagello decided to create one, basing it entirely on

themes from the opera. A Goldoni Overture was first performed in Maiori,

Italy, under the composer¹s direction, in 1969. The short curtain-raiser

captures both the playful exuberance and tender warmth characteristic of the

opera, and of Giannini¹s music in general.

Flagello composed his Credendum for violin and orchestra in 1973,

dedicating it to the memory of his father, who had died shortly after its

completion. The work was not orchestrated until 1985, in preparation for its premiere performance by

violinist Ansgarius Aylward, with the Buffalo Philharmonic under the

direction of Semyon Bychkov. The title Credendum suggests a profession of

belief, expressed here through a highly emotional

statement in one rhapsodic movement. Although anchored in tonality at

strategic structural points, the work conveys a sense of restless

instability through long passages without a strong tonal center.

Credendum opens with an impassioned violin soliloquy that presents three

short motifs within its opening moments. These motifs are developed by the violin through

a succession of brief episodes evoking intensely contrasting emotional

states, ranging from passages of mystery and contemplation to moments of

jarring nervous agitation that erupt in tumultuous tutti explosions. Toward

the work¹s conclusion these shifts of affect seem to resolve into a warmly

heartfelt hymn whose Iyricism is made all the more touching by its

juxtaposition within a context of such turbulence. However, even this emotional oasis culminates in

an anguished climax, followed by an epilogue of sad resignation. Obviously the expression

of belief suggested by the title is thoroughly abstract, its meaning left to

the imagination of the listener.

-Walter Simmons



David Amos is one of the leading figures in the revival of interest in the

raditionalist wing of 20th-century American composers. His many recordings

of works by Alan Hovhaness, Paul Creston, Arnold Rosner, Vincent

Persichetti, Vittorio Giannini, Nicolas Flagello, and others have attracted

the attention of a generation of listeners previously unaware of this music.

Indeed, his path-breaking recordings have even inspired other conductors to

investigate this exciting repertoire, so long neglected. Born in Mexico

City, Amos received his training at San Diego State University, supplemented

by graduate work in conducting at the University of Indiana. His

wide-ranging career has taken him around the world to lead such orchestras

as the Israel Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal

Philharmonic, and the New Russia Orchestra, to name just a few. Amos is also

the founder of the Intemational Musicians¹ Recording Fund, an organization

dedicated to the promotion of worthy but lesser-known 20th-century music.



Tatjana Rankovich was born in Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia, where she

won three first prizes in national competitions by the time she reached the

age of 18. Coming to the United States the following year, she studied at

the Juilliard School, where she earned Bachelor¹s and Master¹s Degrees and

won the Judelson Award. Her teachers have included Josef Raieff, Benjamin

Kaplin, Zelma Bodzin, and Clifton Matthews. Ms. Rankovich has concertized

throughout the United States, Europe, and South America, winning awards at

the Young Keyboard Artists International Competition and the Artists

International Auditions. Her frequent appearances as soloist with the

Belgrade Radio Symphony have been broadcast live on radio and television.

Ms. Rankovich is currently on the faculties of the Mannes College of Music

and the Dalcroze School

of Music.

Although she is a gifted interpreter of the standard piano repertoire

from Bach through Ravel, Ms. Rankovich has become an enthusiastic advocate

for American music. She has revived little-known masterworks by such

composers as Nicolas Flagello, Vittorio Giannini, and Paul Creston,

featuring them on her recital programs and recordings.

Ms. Rankovich¹s performances and recordings of the music of Nicolas

Flagello have received lavish praise. A Fanfare critic wrote, ³More than

simply an accomplished pianist, she is an intelligent artist, capable of

bringing to life a work that has never been played before, and making it

sound like an

established masterpiece.² These sentiments were echoed by Internet critic

Steve Schwartz, who wrote, ³The performances communicate marvelously.

Rankovich strikes me as a thinking musician, rather than as a set of

fingers.² The American Record Guide found her Flagello performances

³thrilling,² while the Scranton Times described them as ³stimulating,

technically adept and convincing.²



Elmar Oliveira has taken his place as one of the most

commanding violinists of our time, with his unsurpassed

combination of impeccable artistry and old-world elegance. Mr. Oliveira is

one of a few major artists committed to the entire spectrum of the violin

world ­ constantly expanding the

traditional repertoire boundaries as a champion of contemporary music and

rarely heard works of the past, devoting energy to the development of the

young artists of tomorrow, and

enthusiastically supporting the art of modern violin and

bow makers.

Among his generation¹s most honored artists, Elmar Oliveira remains the

first and only American violinist to win the Gold Medal at Moscow¹s

Tchaikovsky International Competition. He is also the only violinist to

receive the coveted Avery Fisher Prize, in addition to capturing First

Prizes at the Naumberg International Competition and the G.B. Dealey


Mr. Oliveira¹s rigorous itinerary includes the Chicago, Boston, San

Francisco, National, Seattle, Dallas, Baltimore, New Zealand, St. Louis,

Pittsburgh and London Symphonies; the Cleveland, Leipzig Gewandhaus,

Minnesota, Zurich Tonhalle, and Philadelphia Orchestras; and the New York,

Los Angeles, and London Philharmonics. He has toured the Far East, South

America, and Australia.

Mr. Oliveira¹s repertoire is among the most diverse of any of today¹s

pre-eminent artists. He has

premiered works by such distinguished composers as Morton Gould, Ezra

Laderman, Charles Wuorinen, Joan Tower, Andrzej Panufnik, Benjamin Lees,

Nicholas Flagello, Leonard Rosenman, Hugh Aitken, Richard Yardumian, and

Krzysztof Penderecki. He has also performed seldom heard concerti by Alberto

Ginastera, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Joseph Joachim, and many others.

A prodigious recording artist, Elmar Oliveira is a two time Grammy

nominee for his CD of the Barber Concerto with Leonard Slatkin and the Saint

Louis Symphony. His best selling new recording of the Rautavaara Violin

Concerto with the Helsinki Philharmonic has won him tremendous acclaim,

including the 1998 Cannes Classical Award and Gramophone¹s ³Editor¹s

Choice². Two current, historically significant recordings feature Mr. Oliveira: The Miracle

Makers, for which he performs on thirty great Stradivari and Guarneri del

Gesu violins, and a compact disc highlighting the Library of Congress¹ rare

violin collection.

Elmar Oliveira performs on an instrument known as the ³Lady Stretton,²

made by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu in 1726.


1. Overture Burlesca 4:26

Piano Concerto No. 2

2. Allegro giusto 10:07

3. Andante giusto 8:38

4. Allegro quasi presto 7:31

5. Credendum for Violin and Orchestra 14:13

6. A Goldoni Overture 5:40

Piano Concerto No. 3

7. Lento quasi adagio; Allegro vivace ma giusto 8:15

8. Lento trascinato 6:24

9. Allegro molto 6:31


Recorded in June 1995 in Kosice, Slovakia

Producer: Rudolph Hentsel

Engineer: Gejza Toperczer

Executive Producer: Walter Simmons

Graphic Design: Jim Manly

Cover Painting: Abruzzi

Painting Photo: Berit Schumann


Elmar Oliveira, Violin

Tatjana Rankovich, Piano

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Kosice

David Amos, Conductor



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