Lorenzo Perosi Piano Quintets — Masterful Chamber Works

Lorenzo Perosi was an incredibly talented composer. And one who still hasn’t completely gotten his due.  was well-known and well-respected during his lifetime. 

Perosi was part of the Verismo school of composers. Puccini, Leoncavallo, and Puccini all considered Perosi a friend and musical equal. Debussy, d’Indy, and Massenet also admired his work.

Toscanini was a supporter, and both Carosuo and Gigli performed his songs. So why is Perosi so little known outside his native Italy? Probably because Monsignor Lorenzo Perosi was a cleric. 

The theater was a problematic arena for Perosi. And so he was the only Verismo composer who didn’t write opera. And opera is what made the Verismo composers’ reputation worldwide. 

But Perosi didn’t just compose sacred music. He was prolific and wrote a great deal of secular orchestral and chamber music. This release features two of his five piano quintets. It also includes the first of his three numbered string trios.

The quintets date from 1931. Lorenzo had a gift for melody. To me, these quintets have a Schubertian quality. The music just seems to flow from one lushly beautiful theme to the next. Perosi doesn’t push the envelope on technique, but that’s not his point. The instruments sing and sing in conversation. And that’s the point.

The String Trio No. 1 in C minor does the same, albeit on a smaller scale. Perosi was well familiar with polyphonic writing (thanks to his day job). Here lines weave in and out almost continually. The three instruments come together to punctuate the start of new sections. 

The Roma Tre Orchestra Ensemble with Matteo Bevilacqua takes the right approach to this music. Perosi didn’t write operas, but his aesthetic centered on the human voice. His music wants — and needs to — sing. The players lean into the lyricism, creating some truly wonderful sounds.

Also included are several string trio sketches and exercises from Perosi’s student days. And yes — they’re definitely worth hearing. Even as he was learning his craft, Perosi was a master craftsman.

Lorenzo Perosi: Piano Quintets Nos. 3 & 4
String Trios
Matteo Bevilacqua, piano; Roma Tre Orchestra Ensemble
Naxos 8.574484

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