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Respighi: Orchestral Works Vol 2 / La Vecchia, Rome

Release Date: 10/30/2012 
Label:  Brilliant Classics   Catalog #: 94393   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

RESPIGHI Brazilian Impressions. Botticelli Tryptich. Church Windows. Concerto a cinque. Poema autunnale. 1 Concerto all’antica 1 Francesco La Vecchia, cond; Rome SO; 1 Vadim Brodsky (vn) BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94393 (2 CDs: 141:27)

Although much of Ottorino Respighi’s fame is based on the splashy tone poems of the Roman Trilogy, Read more style="font-style:italic">The Pines of Rome, The Fountains of Rome , and Roman Festivals , much more of his work suggests his great interest in music of the preceding centuries, including that of relatively ancient times. With the exceptions of the Brazilian Impressions and the Poema autunnale , the pieces on this collection demonstrate the point. This conductor and orchestra give solid, often somewhat slowish, performances of the music. I suspect a deliberate decision to eschew flashiness and emphasize sobriety, something I suspected in an earlier collection that included the Roman Trilogy. Given their recorded popularity, starting out a Respighi cycle with such pieces as those and The Birds was like facing lions in the coliseum. Here, the competition is less numerous but still formidable and I don’t recommend that you dispose of your recordings of the pieces on CD No. 1 by, among others, Mario Bernardi (the Botticelli Tryptych ), Antal Doráti ( Brazilian Impressions, Church Windows ), Charles Dutoit ( Brazilian Impressions ), JoAnn Falletta ( Brazilian Impressions, Church Windows ), Richard Hickox ( Botticelli Tryptych ), Jesús López-Cobos (all three), Eugene Ormandy ( Church Windows ), and Geoffrey Simon ( Church Windows )—these just happen to be the ones I own and could refer to. On the other hand, La Vecchia, if his sober approach doesn’t necessarily provide sonic thrills (despite the good stereo sound), neither does it falsify the music; it merely puts a different emphasis on some of it, and not to ill effect. I could easily live with these performances.

I think that one reason for the relative unpopularity of the Brazilian Impressions is that listeners anticipate some loud, colorful piece like, say, Roman Festivals and what they discover is a fairly subdued, atmospheric one. Certainly “Tropical Night” and “Butantan” (with its evocation of snakes crawling around), for all their imaginative touches, are not audience-killers and the finale, “Song and Dance,” while quite delightful in its bouncy rhythms, is also relatively restrained. Here, I think La Vecchia and his orchestra measure up to the alternatives and the sound is good enough to make them competitive with the recordings of Doráti, Dutoit, and Falletta. Like the Brazilian Impressions , the Poema autunnale does not allude to the past, unless it’s the romantic past. It’s a distant cousin of such works as the Chausson Poéme and The Lark Ascending. An agitated middle section is framed by two dreamy, rhapsodic ones. If anything, I think the performance by Vadim Brodsky and La Vecchia is too aggressive and impassioned with the soloist too closely recorded. Here, I prefer the more distantly recorded Marco Polo production with a more restrained, slightly faster performance by Takako Nishizaki with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra under Choo Hoey. It seems more in tune with the music’s “poetic” nature and is appropriately coupled with the Concerto Gregoriano . I used to own the LP of Ruggiero Ricci’s performance with Keith Clark and the Orchestra of the Pacific but it was a victim of my efforts to shrink my LP collection and my memories of it aren’t vivid enough. Too bad, because the coupled Church Windows was a formidable one.

I was in college when Antal Doráti’s pioneering Mercury recording of Church Windows was issued. One of my roommates owned a big Electro-Voice Georgian speaker system and (luckily, we were living in a house) took considerable pleasure in virtually shaking the floors with the piece. We were all delighted by the huge gong stroke at the end of “Saint Michael, the Archangel.” The whole thing still sounds pretty impressive in Pristine Audio’s reissue of the Doráti but it’s also impressive enough in the recordings of Falletta, López-Cobos, Ormandy, and Simon. I don’t attempt to shake the floors anymore but I still have a weakness for this piece, based on Respighi’s Three Preludes on Gregorian Melodies for solo piano. I don’t suppose I will spoil things by pointing out that the “Church Windows” allegedly depicted in the music were an afterthought and the titles came after the music. There is something to be said for La Vecchia’s relatively restrained, solemn performance; it still has enough power and rich sound to put the piece across, but you wouldn’t go wrong with any of the others, even the mono Doráti, and couplings might make the difference.

My favorite recording of the Botticelli Tryptich ( Trittico botticelliano ) was an Angel LP by the Scarlatti Orchestra of Naples under Franco Caracciolo, a performance of considerable delicacy and refinement which is, I assume, gone forever. For that matter, I don’t see my Bernardi and Hickox CDs listed anywhere. Fortunately, I can safely recommend López-Cobos or La Vecchia and there are several other recordings available that I cannot vouch for. In the Concerto a cinque Respighi writes a 20th-century concerto grosso, pitting a string orchestra against five solo instruments: an oboe, trumpet, violin, double bass, and piano, an interesting combination that, at least for my taste, doesn’t yield particularly interesting results but at least it’s different. In the Concerto all’antica , on the other hand, Respighi doesn’t merely allude to older music; he actually imitates it, writing a pseudo-baroque concerto that, if nothing else, passes the time pleasantly.

If I did not already have most of the music on the Brilliant twofer, I would probably be more enthusiastic about it, for the two CDs cost less than most single CDs of these pieces and I was interested enough to purchase Volume 1 (the Roman Trilogy, The Birds , the Suite for Strings, and the Suite in G for Strings and Organ) based on my reactions to these performances. They do not blow away the more celebrated competition by any means but they are good, solid renditions and the addition of more obscure fare gives these budget CDs more than a little interest. In fact, I’m looking forward to the Ancient Dances and Airs (even if it probably won’t be as good as Doráti’s or Ferrara’s), the Rossiniana , and La Boutique fantasque.

FANFARE: James Miller
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Works on This Recording

Impressioni brasiliane by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928 
Trittico botticelliano by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Rome, Italy 
Church Windows by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Italy 
Concerto a Cinque for Oboe, Trumpet, Piano, Violin, Double Bass and Strings by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933; Rome, Italy 
Autumn Poem by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920-1925; Rome, Italy 
Concerto all'antica for Violin by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1923; Italy 

Sound Samples

Impressioni brasiliane (Brazilian Impressions), P. 153: No. 1. Notte Tropicale (Tropical Night)
Impressioni brasiliane (Brazilian Impressions), P. 153: No. 2. Butantan (In a snake-garden near Sao Paulo)
Impressioni brasiliane (Brazilian Impressions), P. 153: No. 3. Canzone e Danza (Song and Dance)
Trittico botticelliano, P. 151: I. La Primavera (Spring): Allegro vivace
Trittico botticelliano, P. 151: II. L'adorazione dei Magi (The Adoration of the Magi): Andante lento
Trittico botticelliano, P. 151: III. La nascita di Venere (The Birth of Venus): Allegro moderato
Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows), P. 150: I. La fuga in Egitto (The Flight into Egypt)
Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows), P. 150: II. San Michele Arcangelo (St. Michael Archangel)
Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows), P. 150: III. Il Mattutino di Santa Chiara (The Matins of St. Clare)
Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows), P. 150: IV. San Gregorio Magno (St. Gregory the Great)
Concerto a cinque, P. 174: I. Moderato
Concerto a cinque, P. 174: II. Adagio
Concerto a cinque, P. 174: III. Allegro vivace
Poema autunnale, P. 146: Poema autunnale, Op. 146
Concerto all'antica, P. 75: I. Allegro
Concerto all'antica, P. 75: II. Adagio non troppo
Concerto all'antica, P. 75: III. Vivace

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