MediciArts MM022-2, 73:19 (www.mediciarts.co.uk Dist. by Naxos) ****:
Milanese conductor Alceo Galliera (1910-1996) is hardly remembered today, except as a fine accompanist to singers like Maria Callas for the EMI inscription of The Barber of Seville. But he worked with stellar talents, ranging from Dinu Lipatti, Artur Schnabel, David Oistrakh, Geza Anda, to Claudio Arrau, Clara Haskil, Leon Goossens, and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. He early recorded for EMI a Borodin First Symphony well worth resuscitating on CD. He had a tenure in Australia and gave a post-war Beethoven cycle in London that a few remember fondly.
The inscriptions given here date from 1955 and 1959. While Toscanini and de Sabata enjoy more prestige in The Pines of Rome (rec. 22 January 1957), Galliera achieves a focused luminosity that I recall in similar style from Fernando Previtali. The pungent combination of medieval chant and raucous orchestration has Galliera’s Philharmonia players in full throttle – especially the winds and horns, a group that includes Dennis Brain in the 1955 sessions. By the time we march down the Appian Way, the archaic and the pungently contemporary have merged in heraldic concert, a resounding energy. The 1928 triptych Brazilian Impressions (rec. 18-21 March 1955) might be a cousin of La Mer, Nights in the Gardens of Spain, and Ports of Call – a kind of coloristic travelogue in the outer movements, with a middle section (“Butantan”) devoted to poisonous snakes and sporting string variants on the Dies Irae. Once again, Respighi’s studies with Rimsky-Korsakov prove effective, as the part writing for winds and angularly rhythmic strings call us to tropical fantasies.
The Fantastic Toy Shop (1918) ballet, composed for the Ballet Russes, delightfully orchestrates piano pieces of Rossini for a divertissement of many playful colors. The setting for La Danza alone wins the berries, a jaunty tarantella for any Mediterranean spirit. So, too, the Can-Can and Valse lente, the Cossack Dance, all the ingredients for an extended childhood. Galleria keeps it all moving sweetly and buoyantly, never too serious for its own good but all for our renewable delectation. Solid sonics for the period; they had my foot tapping often.
— Gary Lemco