GHEDINI: Archetettue, Contrappunti, Marinaresca e baccanale – soloists/Orch. Sinfonica de Roma/ Francesco La Vecchia, Naopxes

by | Jul 16, 2013 | Classical CD Reviews

GIORGIO FEDERICO GHEDINI: Architetture; Contrappunti; Marinaresca e baccanale – Paolo Chiavacci, violin/Riccardo Savinelli, viola/Giuseppe Scaglione, cello/Orch. Sinfonica di Roma/Francesco La Vecchia – Naxos 8.573006 (6/25/13), 66:06 ****:

For a variety of reasons, the contemporary music scene in Italy, since the Second World War has been something of a smaller scale and lesser-known enterprise, outside that country. Some Italian modernists, like Dallapiccola, Maderna and Berio became pretty well known throughout Europe and the U.S.  There are many more who have remained fairly unknown; again, for all kinds of reasons.

This latest edition from Naxos showcasing the music of Giorgio Federico Ghedini (1892-1965) makes a strong case for this composer being one of the better neo-Romantic Italian composers. It is probably due to his music’s unique and hard to define nature that made Ghedini a bit of a hard sell. There are clearly some post-Romantic and even neo-Classical elements to his music. There are also some repeated passages and a pulsing ‘insistency’ that have caused some to think of him as an early (as booklet annotator David Gallagher puts) “proto-minimalist.” Any way we wish to describe it, I find his music quite interesting and worthy of repeated hearings.

The concerto for orchestra, Architectures, is a tightly constructed seven movement work that defies conventional orchestral scoring and really does not sound like a “concerto for orchestra” in the sense of Bartok, for prime example. This most interesting work does rely on some solo and sectional highlighting along with some of his pulsing, repeated scalar passages that give Ghedini’s music one of its defining qualities. A fairly compact eighteen-minute orchestral showpiece, this is a fine work that holds your attention throughout.

Contrappunti (Counterpoints) is another interesting offering that is, essentially, a concerto for string and orchestra. Of the three works here, this is the longest, the most “neo-Romantic” and has some fascinating connections with Beethoven. It is said that Ghedini was a great admirer of Beethoven’s music, the string quartets in particular, and that Counterpoints was intended to pay homage to those works. There is certainly a connection, stylistically, to the late, introspective Beethoven quartets and Ghedini’s use of dark hues and some dramatic ritardandi, silences and melancholy – particularly the Andante misterioso – are quite reminiscent of the master. The closing Allegro vivo begins with a series of short, impulsive bits of melody that start and stop only to lead into an energetic, nervous conclusion. I enjoyed this work a great deal, also!

Ghedini’s Marinaresca e baccanale (Sea Piece and Bacchanale) is the composer’s offering to seascapes and sailors’ life. Ghedini was enamoured with the Mediterranean and the sea in general. In fact, he apparently wrote an oratorio based on Melville’s “Billy Budd” as well as his “Moby Dick”. The present Marinescara is a picturesque work, but, as musicologist John Waterhouse has commented, this piece bears no resemblance to either Britten or the iconic La Mer of Debussy. This piece is, in many ways, a reflection on the sea and its effect on coastal lands; it is not a “depiction” of the sea with waves and such. There are actually a few moments reminiscent of Strauss, in fact. Some of the Ghedini touches including repeated propulsion and lush chords are here and this is another work that really should get more play.

Naxos is to be commended, again, for recording works not heard enough. In some cases, they have released and marketed entire series of CDs along a geographic or historic series. This disc is the latest showcasing composers from mid-century Italy; including some offerings by Malipiero, Ferrara, Petrassi, Casella and, now, Giorgio Ghedini. Ghedini’s music will, most likely, remain a bit of an asterisk in the twentieth century European genre. However, it is well worth exploring and there is always a certain fascination to learning about composers who created their own style despite – or in spite of – what were the popular idioms around them at the time.

The Rome Symphony, the featured soloists and conductor Francesco La Vecchia all give strong, committed and convincing performances and the sonic quality is at Naxos’ usual high standards. I strongly recommend you check this out!

—Daniel Coombs