JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic have made previous Respighi discs for Naxos, but none as fine as this. In fact, this is as impressive a recording of the composer’s Roman Trilogy as any in the catalogue. Everything about the program, from the order of the works (Festivals, Fountains, Pines), to the quality of the playing, to the bright and punchy sonics, bespeaks an effort to do it right. Falletta and team give the music the respect that it deserves. Given how many mediocre versions of this repertoire there are, that’s saying a lot.
Roman Festivals is the noisiest of the three works, and some would say the least musically interesting. Falletta tears into the piece with unashamed glee. The opening crowd scene, withRead more its roaring lions and violent climaxes is cataclysmic, while the closing “La Befana” has color and chaos without degenerating into total cacophony. The Fountains of Rome nearly always comes off well. The only risk is in taking its outer sections too slowly, which Falletta does not. It’s a beautifully flowing performance. The Pines of Rome’s first three sections are all well characterized and sensitively done, but let’s face it: no one cares if the final march doesn’t come off. Here, it does, with pulverizing force. A terrific disc.
Fountains of Romeby Ottorino Respighi Conductor:
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1914-1916; Rome, Italy
Pines of Romeby Ottorino Respighi Conductor:
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1923-1924; Rome, Italy
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Excellent feel for the poetry in this musicMarch 20, 2019By W R Whittle (Cornelius, NC)See All My Reviews"Martin is spot on with his review. I confess to being a JoAnn groupie, and this may be her best recording yet. Like other collectors I have owned many recordings of these works, beginner in the early fifties withe Toscaninis recording of the Pines and Foubtains to Neschlings Recordings in SACD on Bis. Fallettas performance drew me into the music more than recording I remember."Report Abuse
Likely another Gramophone February 14, 2019By Martin Selbrede (Round Rock, TX)See All My Reviews"Respighi's Feste Romane is the first work on this recording. For once you can clearly hear the flute lines in the song of the martyrs quite rare among Respighis interpreters. The hall is fairly boomy, as made evident in the reverberation of the whiplash chords at the climax (which seem pretty clear the attacks are all simultaneous across all instrumental choirs, which isnt true for about two-thirds of the recordings out there). The organ at the climax nearly swallows the orchestra (reminding me of a live performance I heard of Feste with the Austin Symphony last season in this one respect). The Jubilee is paced perhaps a bit faster than the average recording, which works well. Falletta has things well in hand throughout, and the delicate chordal embroidery shows inner voices normally submerged in other versions. The balances throughout tend to emphasize the main lines: this conductor tends to make the main thing the main thing. The build to the climax is well-managed, and all the details are there: glockenspiel, low string chords clear as can be, even woodwind trills invariably buried in other versions as the movement winds down (nothing phoned in here). French horns let loose at the outset of the October Festival with their initial calls, then drop back a notch to a more musical volume (smart approach: if everything is blastissimo, it gets tiring very quickly). Excellent orchestral color marks the chugging sevenths and their vinegary motif, leading into the violin theme quite nicely. The sleigh bells are slightly recessed, but the orchestra is so well recorded that the subtlety doesnt hurt a thing. The hunting horn calls are bold and unbridled: brave players, these. Three movements in and Falletta hasnt made any sins of omission while making the interpretation entirely her own. The mandolin is nicely integrated, and the poetic effects are balanced and suitably atmospheric, each instrumental entrance fitting perfectly into Respighis tapestry. An accelerando marks the opening of La Befana, and again, all the music is here: nothing missing, all the high points played cleanly, clearly, passionately. The fundamental tempo isnt so breakneck as to strain the listener, which I appreciate. The clarinet melody is quite differentiated from went before in timbre, making the episodic nature of the music even more noticeable. Same effect with the barrel organ, the drunken trombone, moving into the big melody (played broadly, but not to excess) again, control that helps the manic nature of the score when applied in the right places. Things move quicker into the final dance, where Falletta again makes the melody the main thing (but not to the disappointing excess of, say, Ormandy). The final brass flourishes dont disappoint, and the final three chords are exultant. This interpretation of Feste Romane is in my top 10%. Very well done. At the beginning of Fountains, I started to wonder if this album has Gramophone Award written over it already, given how richly the orchestra plays and how detailed the soundscape is. The tempo is slightly faster than usual, but it works beautifully and doesnt come off rushed even though many background details are in abundance. Bravo, first flute and first oboe and in-tune high strings! The orchestra seems bent on making this the most beautiful version available, so it makes one wonder whats yet to come on this CD. The Triton Fountain movement always poses a question to interpreters: how much should that pedal tone be emphasized? Some soft-pedal it, others glory in it (it is, after all, clever of Respighi to have the pitch appear in every measure regardless what else is going on). Its on the strong side here (good) as is (surprise) the piano glissandi (usually hidden under other instruments). Another successful interpretation. The Trevi Fountain scales up in sound fairly quickly, and doesnt lack for excitement and thoughtfully-controlled crescendo and balance shifts by the conductor. The build-up to the big climax is perfect, gloriously recorded, and doesnt wear out its welcome as the energy level slowly subsides and the mood darkens prior to the modulation. All departments of the orchestra shine at least as well (if not better) than their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere. In the final movement, fervent music making, even in the quieter passages, abounds: what a pleasure to hear the work not be treated as a war-horse. The famous dissonance in the horns (playing a major second apart) is handled with care: Falletta doesnt hit you over the head with it, but neither does she hide Respighis gutsy move. The final chords against the distant bell tone signal that weve been on an extraordinary journey. Worth a relisten! The tone poems are arranged on the CD such that Pines appears last and Fountains is in the middle (giving a respite from its companion tone poems). So its on to the most famous work of Respighis, and again Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic are in top form at the outset. I liked how the horn phrases were shaped: again, evidence of care in the busy opening movement. The Catacomb movement opens at a slightly quicker pace than others, but everything is thought through very carefully, and again we have to agree that it works well interpretively. The trumpet solo is nicely recorded, but it isnt particularly distant (but it is beautifully played). The buildup to the main hymn is gradual and compelling. The organ pedals are suitably thunderous under the trombone theme, and everything is spacious. Smart to give the trombones room to crescendo at the end of their melody! The brass are in top form, and the string background is played musically, not just scratched out mindlessly in its swaying 5/4 meter. One of the best renderings of the movement Ive ever heard: in the top five by my estimate. Lets see how Janiculum and the Via Appia fare: can Falletta bring it home in triumph? The pianist gives a strong intro to the third movement, the clarinetist sings Respighis cool, limpid lines without a hint of stress despite the huge intervallic leaps. Smart phrasing keeps up the listeners interest: nothing monolithic or wall-of-sound about this movement. Kudos to the engineers for capturing every detail so well: gorgeous flute, solo cello, celesta plus strings, piano perfectly balanced. The return of the solo clarinet is perfection itself. The recorded bird song is serviceable, with some unexpected touches in it. Now the big question: can these forces do justice to the final movement? An ominous start, an interesting accent apparent in the low string sequence in each measure, string chords that give a sense of searing heat but not played overloud. The English horns lines emphasize musicality. The initial brass fanfares suggest Falletta will again craft this huge crescendo of a movement with care, letting the threat of the forces presage the outburst to come. Gloriously handled: nothing second rate about this version. The pipe organ is making its presence felt, and none of the dissonances between the competing choirs are avoided but are allowed to bust loose. Looks like we might well have another Gramophone Award on our hands, folks. This is now in my top five Pines of Rome recordings. Audio equipment used for auditioning this CD: Oppo 105D player, Sennheiser 800 headphones with balanced cable, Sennheiser HDVD 800 headphone amplifier. I am a completionist when it comes to the Roman trilogy: rare is the recording that I dont have in my collection."Report Abuse