WOLF-FERRARI Idillio-concertino for Oboe and Small Orchestra. Concertino for English Horn and Small Orchestra. Suite-Concertino for Bassoon and Small Orchestra • Francesco La Vecchia, cond; Andrea Tenaglia (ob); William Moriconi (Eh); Giuseppe Ciabocchi (bn); Rome SO • NAXOS 8.572921 (77:32)
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948) is best known for his operas, Il Segreto diRead more Susanna in particular, although I think even it has been hampered over the last few decades, because most people (rightly) no longer view smoking as sexy. If his operas are not frequently staged, at least not in the United States, orchestral music from those operas turns up on programs more often. When it does, it’s a delicious treat, because, like many Italian composers, Wolf-Ferrari had a decided gift for tunefulness. Like Respighi, who was his contemporary, he believed there was no shame in writing consonant music that had the potential to appeal to a broad audience.
Although opera dominated his output, Wolf-Ferrari wrote a number of instrumental works, mostly towards the end of his career. The works on this CD date from 1932 (the Idillio-concertino), 1933 (the Suite-concertino), and 1947 (the English Horn Concertino). In all of them, there’s an air of sweet nostalgia. The English horn concertino even includes stylistic nods at neoclassicism and the neobaroque.
While Wolf-Ferrari was Italian-born, his father was German, and he spent many years living in Munich. Thus, it is not surprising that the Italian tendencies in his music mingle with German flavors. The Idillio-concertino suggests Richard Strauss, and not just because Strauss composed his own Oboe Concerto 13 years later. Later in his career, when Strauss composed works with more chamber-music like textures, the results were similar to what Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was creating in his own instrumental works.
All three of these concertinos are delightful, but I must give special kudos to the Suite-Concertino, which presents the bassoon in a most romantic light. Indeed, I don’t know of any extended bassoon writing as luscious as what Wolf-Ferrari came up with in this work. It might make you swoon. The entire program made me sigh happily. It’s just the thing after a long day at work, yet it keeps one’s brain engaged.
You might think that the Rome Symphony Orchestra is a long-standing institution. It is not; it was founded in 2002. It does well with this music, as do the three soloists, who are first chair players within the orchestra. The bassoonist in particular has a tone which is more characterful than ideally smooth, but no one’s playing is bland. CPO released an identical program in 2007, also with Italian musicians. It is more expensive, but less expansive; Francesco La Vecchia gives the music more breathing space, and that is fine by me. Warmly recommended, then.