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Respighi: Complete Orchestral Music Vol 3 / La Vecchia, Rome Symphony Orchestra


Release Date: 03/26/2013 
Label:  Brilliant Classics   Catalog #: 94394  
Composer:  Ottorino Respighi
Performer:  Chiara BertoglioVadim BrodskyAndrea NoferiniDesiree Scuccuglia
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



RESPIGHI Concerto gregoriano. 1 Toccata. 2 Adagio con variazioni. 3 Sinfonia drammatica. Fantasia slava 4 Francesco La Vecchia, cond; Rome SO; 1 Vadim Brodsky (vn); 2 Chiara Bertoglio (pn); 3 Andrea Noferini (vc); Read more 4 Desirée Scuccuglia (pn) BRILLIANT 94394 (2 CDs: 142:29)


George Szell, probably on more than one occasion, asserted that “there are no undiscovered masterpieces” which raises the question of whether there are any such things as “masterpieces” or merely personal taste. Having opened that can of worms, I will quickly close it but if you disagree with Szell, the contents of this pair of CDs won’t provide much rhetorical ammunition for you. Respighi and some of his Italian contemporaries, uncomfortable with contemporary trends in musical composition, looked to the past for inspiration. Certainly one example of this is Respighi’s Concerto gregoriano for violin and orchestra, which makes use of classic musical modes of the distant past. Without necessarily quoting actual chants, he uses mostly the Dorian and Lydian modes with the violinist serving as a sort of cantor to the congregation (the orchestra). I think this proves to be more interesting in conception than in execution—a mostly slow, rhapsodic outpouring. I get the impression that, with their aggressive approach, Brodsky and La Vecchia are trying to turn it into a “real” violin concerto. Perhaps they succeed. In an alternative opinion, the violinist, Takako Nishizaki (Marco Polo), seems more inclined to accept what Respighi gave her and I imagine the work’s admirers might prefer her more poetic sensibility to Brodsky’s virile virtuosity.


If the Concerto gregoriano and some of Respighi’s other works look nostalgically toward the past, the Sinfonia drammatica seems to look ahead…to the Hollywood of the mid 20th century. Running just over an hour, it seems even longer. I am sure that there is some organizational principle at work here but I simply can’t discern it—the three-movement “symphony” strikes me as a lushly orchestrated 62-minute tone poem, full of absolutely gorgeous passages; I don’t believe I have ever heard a piece that was so beautiful and yet failed so badly at hanging together. It sounds more like a soundtrack than a symphony and you may have difficulty concentrating on it. Think of it as a long three-movement tone poem, sit back, and just let the music wash over you. That’s what I eventually did for six or seven hearings. On two of those occasions, I actually drifted off to sleep.


Two of the other three pieces on the set are shorter, to their advantage. The Toccata, written in 1928 and first played at Carnegie Hall, amounts to a 24-minute piano concerto. The annotator, who describes it as “one of Respighi’s absolute masterpieces, revealing how his assimilation of elements from past ages had achieved absolute maturity,” obviously liked it a lot more than I did. Too short to be a concerto, the Fantasia slava is, I assume, a collection of Slavic folk tunes (or what Respighi assumed to be Slavic folk tunes), some of them stated by the orchestra, accompanied by fancy filigree on the piano. Five minutes in, Respighi inserts a tune that many will recognize as the Furiant from The Bartered Bride . For my taste, the most successful piece is the Adagio con variazioni , a reworking of the slow movement of a Cello Concerto Respighi discarded. The eight variations blend seamlessly into each other. The solo cello sings quite beautifully throughout, and the music is all the more effective because it doesn’t overstay its welcome.


FANFARE: James Miller
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Works on This Recording

1. Toccata for Piano and Orchestra by Ottorino Respighi
Performer:  Chiara Bertoglio (Piano)
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; Rome, Italy 
2. Concerto gregoriano by Ottorino Respighi
Performer:  Vadim Brodsky (Violin)
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Rome, Italy 
3. Adagio con variazioni for Cello and Orchestra by Ottorino Respighi
Performer:  Andrea Noferini (Cello)
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; Rome, Italy 
4. Sinfonia drammatica by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913-1914; Rome, Italy 
5. Fantasia Slava for Piano and Orchestra by Ottorino Respighi
Performer:  Desiree Scuccuglia (Piano)
Conductor:  Francesco La Vecchia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; Rome, Italy 

Sound Samples

Concerto gregoriano, P. 135: I. Andante tranquillo
Concerto gregoriano, P. 135: II. Andante espressivo e sostenuto
Concerto gregoriano, P. 135: III. Finale [Alleluja]: Allegro energico
Toccata, P. 156
Adagio con variazioni, P. 133
Sinfonia drammatica, P. 102: I. Allegro energico
Sinfonia drammatica, P. 102: II. Andante sostenuto
Sinfonia drammatica, P. 102: III. Allegro impetuoso
Fantasia slava, P. 50: Fantasia slava

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