AIR BASKYRS op.8
“For one whole year, from 1844 to 1845, Alfredo Piatti lived in Russia, in St. Petersburg, and gave concerts together with the famous tenor from Bergamo, Gian Battista Rubini, the pianist Döhler and other talented musicians.
In St. Petersburg, Piatti struck up a great friendship with Count Matwej Wielgohorsky, the famous cellist, patron and organizer of concerts. At that time, he was the promoter of the ‘Symphonic Society’, together with his elder brother Michail. The Society was an important focal point in the musical life of the city. Robert and Clara Schumann, Rossini, Liszt and Berlioz all gave concerts at Wielgohorsky’s home.
Count Matwej Wielgohorsky, who had studied cello with Romberg, was very highly esteemed as a cellist, and many works composed by the musicians who enlivened his musical events were dedicated to him: Servais dedicated the famous Morceau de Concert to him; Vieuxtemps, the Duo Brillant, op.39, for violin, cello and orchestra; Mendelsshon, the Second Sonata op.58 for cello and piano. Alfredo Piatti, too, dedicated Une prière. Tema con variazioni, op.3 to him; the piece was always very special to Piatti. When Wielgohorsky died in 1863, he left his exhaustive library to the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, and his Stradivarius cello to Davidov.
On 10 April 1845, Count Matwej Wielgohorsky wrote a letter to the famous composer Aleksej Verstovskij in Moscow. Verstovskij was Inspector to the Imperial Theatre in Moscow from 1825 onwards. In the letter, Wielgohorsky highly recommended Piatti, and described the purity and emotion of his style of playing.
And it was in Moscow, in the tower of the Cremlin, on Easter night, 1845, that Piatti met the great Belgian virtuoso Servais, with whom he later had many occasions to play together with.
During his stay in Russia, from Piatti composed two pieces on popular Russian themes, the Mazurka sentimentale, op. 6, and the Trois Airs Russes variées, op.16, as well as the Air Baskyrs, scherzo, op.8.
Settled between the Belaja (Volga) and the southern Urals, the Baskyrs are a mixed ethnic group of Turkish and Tartar origin. The Baskyrs of the Ural mountains, who still have not abandoned their primitive, nomadic lifestyle entirely, raise horses and various crops, and are experts at falconry.
A man of Baskyr origin often stopped at the window of Piatti’s house in St. Petersburg, and played a typical Baskyr instrument, which was something like a set of bagpipes, with a bag that had to be filled with air to produce sound. The tone varied chromatically little by little as sounds were produced by the air emptying out of the bag. The traditional musical theme this man repeatedly played was very typical, and Alfredo Piatti borrowed it in his composition Airs Baskyrs for cello and strings.”
(Annalisa Lodetti Barzano’ / Christian Bellisario "Signor Piatti, Cellist Komponist", Avantgardist, Kronberg Academy Verlag, 2001 )
Air Baskyrs op. 8
for cello and string orchestra
Alfredo Piatti Cello Collection
Editor Christian Bellisario
Pizzicato Verlag Helvetia, PVH 814
(See also Air Baskyrs op. 8 for cello piano, PVH 813)