Hidden Talents

Violist Philippe Chao discusses his project of discovering

the works of Italian composer Marco Anzoletti

Philippe with Anzoletti's biographer, Giovanni Delama

In the last few years, I embarked a new adventure that stems directly from my 20 years of performing Romantic Italian operas with the KCOHO. During a run of Donizetti, Bellini or Verdi, I would find myself enchanted by the flowing and natural vocal melodies that permeated the writing. My mind would unfailingly wander to the idea that perhaps a composer of that era had written instrumental music in the same vein--perhaps for the viola! 

After many late night internet searches of sheet music, videos, music forums, and dissertations, I came upon the works of Marco Anzoletti, a renowned violinist, violist, and pedagogue from the Milan Conservatory who also happened to be an extraordinarily prolific composer at a time in Italian history when vocal music was king. 

Captivated by his music, I made contact with Giovanni Delama, Anzoletti’s biographer. It turns out that the vast majority of Anzoletti’s music has never been published or even heard. So in October of 2015, with a violist’s zeal of unearthing hidden gems in our repertoire, I took a detour from a family vacation and journeyed to the mountain town of Trento Italy, where I accessed the Biblioteca Communale di Trento. With the invaluable assistance of Delama (who was eager to publicize this composer that he greatly admired) I spent many hours combing the treasure trove of unpublished manuscripts and photographing hundreds of pages of manuscripts. I rejoined my family and eagerly anticipated my return home when I could sift through my findings. 

Back in DC, I made contact with fellow violist Kenneth Martinson, founder of Gems Music Publications, a company whose express purpose is to discover and publish hidden gems in the viola repertoire. I proposed a project to get many of these works published and performed for the first time. We set out together to edit, engrave, and publish many of Anzoletti’s works. 

Progress has been slower than I’d anticipated; engraving, even done with powerful publishing programs, is a tedious and time-consuming endeavor. But I’ve submitted and edited many of these works, and five have now been published, and have received their premiere performances. I’m slowly working my way into more of his complex compositions. 

Currently, I am most excited about a solo violin piece based on a sublimely beautiful theme from Bach’s Sonata in a minor for solo violin. I hope that this extraordinarily difficult work might someday find its place in a virtuoso’s performing repertoire. Additionally I hope to complete some of his chamber music and a number of concerti in the coming months. To be continued!

These editions can be found at gemsmusicpublications.com:

For Violin and Piano:

Adagio a Bazzini GPL245

For Violin Solo:

Una Frase di S. Bach GPL244

For Viola and Piano:

7 Composizioni GPL243

Sonata in Bb GPL242

Scherzo GPL225