An interpreter's tribute to a COVID-stricken Europe (via Poulenc, Ravel, and Cacioppo)
Bruce Leto Jr. Gomitolo!
About Bruce: As a prize-winner in scholastic (Dora Khyatt); Collegiate (Bi-Co Concerto Competition); national (West Chester National Piano Competition); and international (Quebec Music Competition; Canadian International; Progressive Musicians International) piano adjudications - Bruce's music tenure has enabled him to perform in PA, NJ, FL, NY, and Italy. During his collegiate years, Bruce's piano study under Linda de Pasquale and Curtis Cacioppo led to acceptance at the Chautauqua Music Festival and the Orfeo International Music Festival - where he studied in 2011. Presently, he studies under Scott Cohen on a performance-based scholarship at the Cohen School of Music.
Bruce's playing has been described as "kaleidoscopic," "refined," "intelligent," and "highly skilled" by piano department chairs of music schools, critically-acclaimed international pianists, and Navona-affiliated composers. He has been featured in masterclasses with concert artists such as: Steven Mayer, Riccardo Piacentini, Veda Zuponcic, and Leon Bates!
"[In Seasonal Sonorities] Bruce demonstrates an impressive ability to interpret music from different eras, from romantic to impressionist, to 21st century." - David Carpenter, Composer (Navona Records)
"Played with great care and sensitivity...Bruce Leto is an intelligent and highly-skilled musician." - Charles Abramovic, Department Chair Piano Studies (Temple University)
In 2020, Bruce released a CD ("GOMITOLO! An Interpreter's Tribute to a COVID-Stricken Europe") with Navona records, which received recognition via the American Prize (Professionals Division, Solo), and a Silver Medal at the Global Music Awards in 2021!
"Gomitolo" - an Italian expression that loosely translates into the "incomprehensibility of human life." As a pianist and lifelong music student, I wholeheartedly believe that it’s important to derive meanings in the pieces that we undertake from various aspects of life (both internally and externally). Life lessons, emotions, social circumstances, and current events ALL SHAPE WHO WE ARE AS PEOPLE - AND AS ARTISTS!
In the context of COVID-19 (and specifically considering its deleterious impact on Europe), one particular composer comes to mind: Francis Poulenc - a dedicated scholar, musician, and enthusiast of all things European. Poulenc spent much of his adult life sojourning Europe and touring with Soprano Denise Duval and baritone Pierre Bernac. Combining his mentor-ship from Erik Satie, sensibilities of Mozart and Stravinsky (per Sante Fe Chamber), and the geographical influences of Southern Italy (Naples and Sicily) - it's no wonder that Poulenc's indelible European influences are widely recognized among musicologists and stylistic interpreters. Indirectly, Poulenc's music speaks to the COVID-19 pandemic via themes (melancholie), titles ("Sicilienne"), and introspect ("Novelette"). From Schubertian-inspired Waltzes to Parisian, whimsical impromptus; Poulenc's music is as serious, capricious, and bewildering as the global response to COVID-19.
Message from the Artist:
I specifically want to say thank you to all of the Settlement Music School patrons who generously donated to the "Bruce Sr. Emergency Relief Fund" via the virtual Music Can Overcome Gala. In light of recent struggles, the magnanimity of a handful of individuals is enabling Settlement to retain its talented music faculty (even after COVID-19)! Out of appreciation for the influence Settlement had on my life - musically, academically, and professionally - those select donors will receive downloadable versions of the pre-released tracks.
Ricardo Tull (website); Dwayne Booth (album art); Erik Scattareggia (recording); Lauren Angelini (Multimedia Artwork Video Integrations); Charles Cacioppo (additional audio); Settlement Music School
Bruce Leto Jr.’s musical achievements to date:
- Winner, Dora Khyatt Scholastic Music Competition – 2007, 2009, 2010
- Oberlin Conservatory Acceptance - 2010
- 3rd Prize, West Chester National Piano Competition – 2010
- Orfeo International Music Festival, Participant – 2011
- Winner, Bi-College Concerto Competition – 2013
- Masterclasses with Veda Zuponcic, Steven Mayer, Riccardo Piacentini, and Leon Bates - 2010-2013
- Departmental High Honors; Haverford College Music Program – 2014
- "Gomitolo!" accepted for release by Navona (Parma) Records, to be distributed digitally via Naxos; Released on 8/14/20
- Finalist recognition for "GOMITOLO!", The American Prize (Professional Division) - 2020
- First Prize, Grand Metropolitan International Music Competition (Solo, Professional Piano) - 2021
- Silver Prize, Virtuoso Artists '20; Seattle International Piano Competition
- 3rd Place, V ODIN International Music Competition 2021, duo (Aspiring Professionals Division)
- Silver Medal ("Outstanding Achievement") for "GOMITOLO!" (emerging artist, concept) re: Global Music Awards - 2021
- First Prize - Platinum (Young Artist Category, Duo), Honorable Mention (Artist/Professional Category, Solo); Canadian International Music Competition - 2021
"A live display of gorgeous manipulation of space...classical and impressionistic styles [performed] with a profound ability, proving to be a reprieve from the devastating year humanity is sorting through" - Take Effect
"A sensitive and fluent account of mesmerizingly beautiful music by Poulenc, Ravel, and Cacioppo. Bruce paints with a palette of diverse sounds and sensations that will not leave you untouched!" - Marianne Zhou, Award-winning Pianist (V Odin International Competition, Project Manager)
Gomitolo! Available TODAY via cover above!
Novelette in C Major - Poulenc
This short story is written in a contemporary C major, stylistically transmuting through different idioms - each of which serves as a "tribute" to a distinct European region. The opening features a surprisingly light motif from Poulenc, in almost a late-classical/early Impressionistic French C major. Later on, pay attention for a German march, followed almost immediately by melodic major thirds - a Venetian gondolier!
A Pied - Poulenc
One of Poulenc's Promenades - "A Pied" translates into "A Walk." To me, this track represents confusion during the incipient stages of the COVID-19 pandemic/lock-down. A piece that straddles dissonance and consonance, "A Pied" introduces the first of five ("5") waltz idioms, among other various iterations throughout the album (contemporary, impressionistic, and romantic) - ending with a "jazz-like" resolution.
Menuet sur le nom d'Haydn - Ravel
Ravel and Poulenc were both influenced by the sensibilities and rhythmic styles of classical composers (such as Mozart and Haydn) in their writings. Specifically, this piece was written in 1909 to mark the centenary of Joseph Haydn's death - consistent with the tributary theme of Gomitolo! ("Sicilienne," "Francais," etc). The waltz time signature (3/4) recurs; levity amidst seriousness
Valse "A la Maniere de Borodine" - Ravel
A brilliant waltz written in the "Borodin" style, which makes characteristic use of chromatic harmonies over ostinato pedals, echoing the "Serenade" from Borodin's Petite Suite and the scherzo of his Second String Quartet (Hyperion). Valse is a piece as melodic as it is chromatic; transcending styles and sensibilities. Pay close attention to the foreboding nature of the artwork at the end of the piece (following a descending chromatic scale).
Novelette in E Minor - Poulenc
One of Poulenc's Trois Novelettes, the E minor (1959) is based on Manuel de Falla's 7/8 theme from El Amor Brujo, simplified by Poulenc into 3/8 time. The sensibilities of this piece speak to the sorrow of Europe (especially northern Italy/France, which Poulenc was influenced by) during COVID-19. *Did Poulenc write prophetically?* Poulenc dedicated this piece to a close friend R. Douglas Gibson.
Improvisation #12 (Homage to Schubert) - Poulenc
A standard, elegant Austrian waltz written in the style of another European composer - Franz Schubert. The chromatic middle section, and brass-like fortissimo sections are intended to be orchestrated in the style of Ravel (see: Poem Choreographique). Order, to fragmentation, back to consonance and resolution; the puzzling nature of life - Gomitolo!
Ecco Venere - Curt Cacioppo
A thematic, cavernous piece with southern Italian atmosphere - inspired by Venus and the Red Doves of Libya. Listen for the tertiary waltz gesture; this time, appearing in a contemporary C Major. Cacioppo writes with Italy in mind, as cave dwellers transform into doves.
Impromptu No. 3 - Poulenc
A quirky "albumblatt" that reminds us of French levity and circus sensibilities. Listen closely to the chromaticism, which builds into a spellbinding whimsy towards the middle of the piece - leading to a "sigh" at the conclusion of the piece. Augmented fourths in this Impromptu indicate a level of seriousness, with which Poulenc intends to ground this short (but masterful) work.