RESPIGHI: Overture to Belfagor; Pines of Rome; Fountains of Rome; The Birds; Three Botticelli Pictures; Ancient Airs and Dances — London Symphony Orchestra/Lamberto Gardelli/ Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner (The Birds — EMI

by | Aug 27, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

RESPIGHI: Overture to Belfagor; Pines of Rome; Fountains of
Rome; The Birds; Three Botticelli Pictures; Ancient Airs and Dances,
Suites 1-3 — London Symphony Orchestra/Lamberto Gardelli/ Academy of
St. Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner (The Birds; Botticelli)/
LA Chamber Orchestra/Sir Neville Marriner (Ancient Airs)

EMI Classics 7243 5 86549 2 (2 discs)  67:56; 67:30 ****:

I have oft expressed my mixed feelings about the music of Ottorino
Respighi (1879-1936), claiming that he used much of his enormous talent
and skill for orchestration to write vapid landscape pieces or visual
commemoratives. I find in Respighi the same elements I find in Delius,
a tendency to make effective pieces rather than meaningful ones. I call
such use and abuse of talent decadent.  But all this is by the
board: EMI has reissued 1976 inscriptions, and very effective
recordings they are, of a good bulk of Respighi’s more accessible
orchestral works, which include two of the three Roman colossi for
which he is most famous: The Pines of Rome and The Fountains of Rome.

Respighi’s taste for old Italian and Renaissance dance forms, mostly
for the lute, also gave birth to the suites The Birds and Ancient Airs
and Dances, which are again a concession to the neo-classic movement
that possibly explains much of the music that coincides with the rise
of Il Duce. The strictly acoustic aspects of the two discs deter me not
at all: they are clear, pungent performances realized with warmth and
relish by maestri Gardelli and Marriner.  No one can doubt
Respighi’s ability to orchestrate, given his studies with
Rimsky-Korsakov and Bruch; the opening to the third of the Ancient Airs
and Dances suites is the soul of Italy’s boot, to be sure. I suppose
one can enjoy the 1927 Botticelli Pictures as one savors the Hindemith
meditations for Mathis der Maler, and Respighi is more pictorial. As
always, the textures and scorings are thoroughly idiomatic, but I might
care to hear Concerto Gregoriano instead of yet another pairing of The
Pines and Fountains of Rome. For excepting the Overture to Belfagor,
haven’t we taken out all these postcards before?

–Gary Lemco

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