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Respighi: Orchestral Music / Noseda, BBC PO

Release Date: 01/16/2007 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10388   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ottorino RespighiSergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Gianandrea Noseda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RESPIGHI Burlesca. Preludio, corale e fuga. Rossiniana. RACHMANINOFF (Orch. Respighi) 5 Études-tableaux Gianandrea Noseda, cond; BBC PO CHANDOS 10388 (73:04)

When I played an RAI recording of Respighi’s puppet opera La bella dormente nel bosco on a radio program Read more in Dallas about 30 years ago, we received several enthusiastic calls—none more so than that of an individual who liked the work immensely and had been, until then, unaware that the composer had ever written anything other than a few tone poems and the three Ancient Airs and Dances suites. An extreme case, perhaps, but matters have improved since then for Respighi. There will never be any lack of musical fountains or pines about Rome for anyone to appreciate, but a lot more of the composer’s music has visibility now, and an attentive public. The Preludio, corale e fuga appears occasionally on concert programs, and I’m sure we’ll soon hear that the Burlesca is doing the same.

The Preludio, corale e fuga was composed in 1900, when Respighi was taking lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov in St. Petersburg. The work was written under the older master’s supervision; and certainly his touch can be heard in some of the harmonic progressions, the characteristic use of the strings and winds (especially the flutes), and the transformation of themes. There’s much of Respighi already present, however, notably in the arresting brass chorale (before it is harmonized and enters an Eastern Orthodox church), and the fugue subject and its chromatic treatment. Above all, the scope of the work and its mix of rigor and fancy point to a young, ambitious composer of considerable promise.

More consistently interesting is the Burlesca , a phantasmagoric piece despite its title, rather than something mock-serious like Strauss’s Burleske . The shape and harmonization of the Burlesca ’s main theme and the piece’s use of pedal points seem to point to Sibelius. As the work was composed in 1906, the possibility of influence cannot be set aside. Still, Sibelius wasn’t given to this kind of filigree work, and it is the subtlety, rather than the overt brilliance of the orchestration, as well as its suitability to the task, that impresses the most.

Rossiniana is nowhere near as well known as La boutique fantasque , but the source is the same: Rossini’s large collection of incidental piano music, nearly all of it composed late in life. It appeared in 1925 and was a success at its premiere, but has been eclipsed through the years by a suite drawn from the ballet. By contrast, while Rossiniana still gets heard on occasion, that can’t be said of the Five études-tableaux . They began life as Rachmaninoff’s ops. 33 and 39 piano collections from 1911 and 1917, respectively. For whatever reason, the composer had no interest in orchestrating a selection of these, so it was left to Serge Koussevitzky to suggest Respighi as a likely candidate. Rachmaninoff agreed; and the results come surprisingly close, not merely in the romantic, fantastical and warlike passages, but in singling out the mordant thread that runs through both “La Foire” and “Le Chaperon rouge et le loup.”

I find the value of these performances to be mixed. Noseda strives above all for clarity, which yields a harvest of welcome orchestral detail from this orchestrally brilliant composer. At times the conductor is too willing to sacrifice momentum and accent, as in the final “Marche” of the Five études-tableaux that frankly, falls flat; yet the concluding “Tarantella” of Rossiniana has all the brio one could desire. The “Marche funèbre” from the Five études-tableaux is colorful but prosaic—too fast and heavy in its tread; but nothing could be lighter or honed more delicately than the filigree work in the Burlesca . Throughout the program, individual soloists are too reticent, but Noseda coaxes a fat, beautiful Russian sound from his sections.

The “Tarantella” to one side, there are certainly better versions of Rossiniana available, though many now fall into the category of historical. Dorati’s old recording with the Royal Philharmonic on Decca 444106 has been re-released under arrangement with ArkivMusic, and is well worth pursuing for its infectious high spirits. Good, too, is Janigro/Vienna SO (Vanguard 41), another vintage release, despite an orchestra that was never within striking distance of the BBC Philharmonic in matters of virtuosity. Dorati and Janigro knew how to bring this music to life. On the evidence of this album, Noseda is still learning.

But in the Burlesca and Preludio, corale e fuga his only competition comes from a slapdash pair of performances featuring Adriano and the Slovak RSO in coarse sound (Naxos 8.557820). So if you want those works, and in excellent sound, too, this disc becomes self-recommending.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Burlesca by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Gianandrea Noseda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; Italy 
Preludio, corale, fuga by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Gianandrea Noseda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1901; Italy 
Rossiniana by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Gianandrea Noseda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; Rome, Italy 
Etudes-tableaux (5) (Rachmaninov), Op. 160 by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Gianandrea Noseda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1930; Italy 

Featured Sound Samples

Preludio, corale, fuga (Respighi): Fuga
Rossiniana (Respighi): IV. Tarantella

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