Charpentier – Impressions d’Italy

Gustave Charpentier won the prestigious Prix de Rome for a cantata, in 1887. The prize was established in 1663 as a means for young artists to see, and be inspired by, Italian art. It was an all-inclusive stay in Rome for a couple of years. Charpentier didn’t like Rome, nor Italy, and he was homesick for Paris most of the time.

During that time he did write his magnum opus, the opera Louise. He also wrote this: a short piece of program music that is different from the more sensational opera. Charpentier didn’t write the program itself though, that was supplied by the contemporary critic Alfred Ernst. He wrote a little story to the titles.

The description gives tribute to the impressions of normal people. It is as if I’m watching a Fellini film, about a lot of busy Italian people. The opera Louise is seen as a French verismo opera. Now verismo is a movement in the literary arts that tries to portray the country as it is. It tries to show reality, including the ugly side of things. Maybe the program for these impressions was deliberately written in the same way.

An interesting work from a composer that I don’t have that many recordings from. In fact, this might be the only one. More’s the pity that the recording is quite bad and sounds very flat. Mine is stereo, but I couldn’t find that on Spotify. But still, it might be recreated from the original mono recordings from 1954.

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