Suite Italienne: Works by Respighi; Stravinsky & Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco

Francesca Dego, Francesca Leonardi (DG)

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Suite Italienne
Respighi Violin Sonata in B minor; Stravinsky Suite Italienne; Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco Ballade for Violin and Piano, Op. 107; Fantasias for Violin and Piano – Rosina; Figaro; Violetta
Francesca Dego (violin), Francesca Leonardi (piano)
DG 481 7297
73:05 mins

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Whiffs of Debussy and Scriabin, with a drizzling of decadence – the opening movement of Respighi’s 1917 Violin Sonata is quintessentially late-Romantic in sensibility. It can easily overheat, but the Italian violinist Francesca Dego keeps the temperature finely poised between an interesting simmer and boil-over. Her supple, sappy tone suits the music, and she bows in lengthy, lissome phrases with exceptionally sure intonation. The Andante sings with a sweet poignancy, and the concluding Passacaglia’s 20 variations are knitted cohesively together, with enough expressive flexibility to keep the results from seeming sternly academic.

Charm and elegance infuse Dego’s reading of Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne, based on his neo-classical ballet Pulcinella. The ‘Tarantella’ is spikily energetic without turning frantic, and the ‘Gavotta’ is pointed with grace and humour, with neatly scaled contributions from pianist Francesca Leonardi. Three of the four works by Castelnuovo-Tedesco are premiere recordings. The Ballade huffs and puffs rhetorically. But the Fantasias – two on Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and one on Verdi’s La traviata – are delightful pieces, played with a winning blend of panache and technical assurance. All told, this is a richly enjoyable recital, confirming the strong impression Dego made last year in her recording of concertos by Paganini and Wolf-Ferrari.

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Terry Blain