Nicola Campogrande: ‘Nudo’

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In addition to their recent new editions and reissues of the music by Brahms and Busch, Breitkopf & Härtel continue to bring us fresh and brilliant new concert works.

Nicola Campogrande (b.1969, Turin, Italy) is one of today’s most exciting classical composers; his music has been performed around the world by such luminaries as Gauthier Capuçon and Lilya Zilberstein, with glowing praise from audiences and critics alike. Campogrande’s compositions have also been featured on more than 30 CD recordings from a variety of labels.

Since 2017, Campogrande has published exclusively with Breitkopf, and an early fruit of their partnership is the recent publication of a solo piano concert work intriguingly titled Nudo.

Let’s take a peek…

The Composition

In his unusually frank and insightful Preface to the publication of Nudo, Campogrande tells us,

“In 2012 I received a rather singular commission when a total stranger asked me to compose a musical portrait of his fiancée. The man knew exactly what he wanted: a concerto for piano and orchestra. After some reflection I realised that I would be able to paint with music. It would never be possible, of course, to recognise the shape of the woman’s face or the colour of her hair, but the score could evoke the way in which she occupied space and time, and the different movements of the music would be like the faces on a rotating prism.”

Having accepted the commission, Campogrande went on to compose R (A Portrait for Piano and Orchestra), which was subsequently premiered by Lilya Zilberstein with the Orchestra Verdi in Milan.

The piece was a success in every sense, and after it was also the subject of a TV documentary, other pianists started to request a solo piano version for recital use.

Nudo (2015) is that piece, so called because the pianist is, according to Campogrande, “naked”, without orchestral clothing. And Nudo proves to be a highly virtuosic and dazzling concert work in its own right, lasting around 16 minutes and requiring a significant technique. Have a listen to this recording by the pianist Martina Filjak:

As you will discover, there are five movements, each of which Campogrande explains in depth in his Preface. So we discover, for example, that the first movement, Home,

“…depicts the very bright light that enters the couple’s home every day, the sunshine invading the living room through a gigantic glass wall at the bottom of the garden…”

For the second movement, the jazz-infused Occhi (Eyes), Campogrande was inspired by photographs of the subject provided by his client, while the third movement, a quirky scherzo called Conquiste (Conquests), portrays her tireless activity in both professional and domestic domains.

For the fourth movement, Notte (Night), Campogrande whispers,

“I collected the highly confidential stories that the client told me about the couple’s nights together. Tenderness, gestures of affection and playful romps thus alternate in a micro-narrative that stays secret”.

The Finale meanwhile is a more abstract piece, with which Campogrande brings the musical narrative to its own resounding conclusion.

The Publication

First of all let me put this out there: the thick card matt-laminated cover is quite simply one of the most gorgeous I’ve encountered:

The score is printed on quality cream paper, the book taking up 36 pages.

Campogrande’s notation is conventional and detailed. He leaves fingering choices to the performer’s discretion. It’s worth noting that three of the five movements specify extensive and essential use of the piano’s sostenuto (middle) pedal for effect.

To Summarise

Nudo is a scintillating work that paints a vivid and fascinating sequence of musical portraits of its subject. And the Breitkopf score is simply superb.

For diploma-level pianists, I am sure it will prove a rewarding and enjoyable piece to study, and one that I have no doubt concert audiences will find equally engaging.

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Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is the author of HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC, published worldwide by Hal Leonard. He is a widely respected piano educator and published composer based on Milton Keynes UK.