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Casella: Symphony No 3, Italia / Noseda, BBC PO

Casella / Bbc Philharmonic Orch / Noseda
Release Date: 06/25/2013 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10768  
Composer:  Alfredo Casella
Conductor:  Gianandrea Noseda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CASELLA Symphony No. 3. Italia. Introduzione, Corale e Marcia Gianandrea Noseda, cond; BBC PO CHANDOS 10768 (69:35)

Alfredo Casella’s Third Symphony of 1939–40 followed his Second after a gap of 31 years. Neither work was available on record until recently. It is only lately that we have been able to appreciate fully the achievements of this previously neglected composer, thanks largely to two ongoing series, from Francesco La Vecchia for Naxos and Gianadrea Noseda for Read more Chandos. While La Vecchia’s recordings have been and continue to be excellent, it is Noseda and his BBC forces who really shine, with, it must be admitted, considerable help from the Chandos recording team. Noseda’s recording of Casella’s Second Symphony revealed it to be a work of Mahlerian scope and impressive technical assurance (see Paul A. Snook’s review in Fanfare 34:2), and in this new release the conductor makes an even more convincing case for the Third.

It is a work of vast proportions, lasting 42 minutes in this performance. The first movement expands from an initial pastoral theme played by a solo oboe, and Casella develops his material with a rigor reminiscent of Hindemith. The emotional center of the work is the slow movement, which again proceeds with an inevitability that signifies the composer’s long experience. The fourth movement finale is the most episodic, concluding with a return to the opening material that strengthens the structure of the work as a whole. The third movement scherzo takes the form of a sardonic interlude. In the past I felt this movement was overlong, as the material is mostly repeated in changing orchestral garb but not developed in any significant way. Noseda’s performance makes it work by the careful contrasting of dynamics: the first part of the movement is robust and primarily forte , whereas the quieter second part is like an extended, ghostly echo of the first. This is very clear in the new recording.

Noseda and Chandos pull out all stops for the early tone poem Italia , written to be Casella’s answer to Respighi’s popular Roman trilogy and to Richard Strauss’s Aus Italien . Like Strauss, Casella makes use of Danza’s tune Funiculi-Funiculà (in Casella’s case with the composer’s permission) and treats it in an exciting, freewheeling way. Strangely enough, it is this specific musical reference that dates the work. Funiculi-Funiculà conjures up the ethos of Dean Martin (or even Chico Marx’s comic character) that Americans once associated with Italy but of course no longer do. In a performance as colorful as Noseda’s, any such period flavor is not the drawback it might be in less committed hands.

The Introduzione, Corale e Marcia for woodwind, brass, timpani, percussion, piano, and double basses is another late piece, dating from 1935 when Stravinsky’s neoclassicism was a predominant influence on Casella. While just under eight minutes in total length, it is a strong work, cleanly scored and tightly organized. Again, the forces on the new disc make a compelling case for the piece. According to the CD cover, this is its premiere recording.

La Vecchia recently got around to the Third Symphony in his Naxos series, a version that I regret to say I have not heard. It would have to be very special to equal Noseda. (Raymond Tuttle in these pages called La Vecchia’s performance “completely satisfactory” but had some reservations about the symphony itself; see Fanfare 35:2.) Back in January 2010 ( Fanfare 33:3), Paul A. Snook and I reviewed another recording of the symphony and Italia by the WDR SO Köln, conducted by Alun Francis. We both liked it, and indeed it is a classy, well-recorded performance. Francis stresses the Symphony’s neoclassical qualities, while Noseda makes more of the work’s orchestral panoply. Both versions are recommendable, but my preference falls slightly on the side of the new release because of the musicians’ energy and sensitivity, the brilliant Chandos sound, and the inclusion of the Introduzione, Corale e Marcia . This is a most welcome disc; so much so that it has earned a coveted place on my 2013 Want List.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 3, Op. 63 by Alfredo Casella
Conductor:  Gianandrea Noseda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939-1940 
Italia, Op. 11 by Alfredo Casella
Conductor:  Gianandrea Noseda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909; Italy 
Introduzione, corale e marcia, Op. 57 by Alfredo Casella
Conductor:  Gianandrea Noseda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931-1935; Italy 

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