Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances; Six Pieces; Piano Sonata in F minor; Three Preludes on Gregorian Melodies

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Respighi
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Ancient Airs and Dances; Six Pieces; Piano Sonata in F minor; Three Preludes on Gregorian Melodies
PERFORMER: Konstantin Scherbakov (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553704
The most substantial work on this disc is the 14-minute Sonata in F minor, but it is also the least convincing. In the opening Allegro, Respighi uses the traditional sonata form as a jelly mould into which he pours his ideas willy-nilly, but the nervous accompaniment figures stop and start, militating against any natural flow. For me, the music seems ill at ease with itself and leaves no strong impression. The Lento coheres better, and the Allegretto finale is not without some good ideas, but even here the accompaniment’s nervous flutterings often replace truly generative figuration. The rest of the programme reflects Respighi’s interest in early lute music and Gregorian chant, though his treatment of the latter calls to mind the quotation about new wine in old bottles.

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The best items are the Ancient Airs and Dances (arrangements of Italian music generally using the original harmonies) and the Six Pieces for solo piano. Of these, the Minuetto is nicely thought out, ‘Studio’ interestingly elaborate and the introductory ‘Valse caressante’ keeps reminding me of ‘Unforgettable’, the song Nat King Cole made famous. Scherbakov plays the whole programme with commitment and considerable finesse. Wadham Sutton