Petrassi: Concertos for Orchestra

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LABELS: Stradivarious
ALBUM TITLE: Petrassi Concertos
WORKS: Concertos for Orchestra
PERFORMER: Netherlands RSOArturo Tamayo
Goffredo Petrassi died aged nearly 99; 2004 marked his centenary. His was a searching, principled, self-renewing modernism, instinct with an intense delight in sound, that ranks him with the likes of Roberto Gerhard and Elliott Carter. The eight orchestral concertos span 40 years, from Mussolini’s Italy to post-Darmstadt internationalism. In them the public and the intensely private meet in the exercise of orchestral display, sometimes brilliant and colourful, sometimes subtle and furtive. Though not formally symphonies, they may constitute the finest symphonic achievement by any Italian. For works so important the discography has been pitiful. The only previous complete cycle, conducted by Zoltán Peskó (now on Warner Fonit), dates from 1972-81, with various orchestras and erratic standards of performance and recording. So this new, much more unified Stradivarius set is immensely welcome, allowing us to take in the full range of Petrassi’s


thought and his versatile stylistic development. From the jazzy Hindemithian neo-classicism of the First Concerto (one of the classic orchestral works of the 1930s),

through the Busonian mysticism and lyricism of the Second, the Cubist elegance of the Third, the fierce intensity of the Fourth (a stringorchestra masterpiece), Petrassi

voyages on through the intricate serial operations of Nos 5 and 6 to the jagged, fractured expressionism of the Seventh and the grand gestures of the epic Eighth, a work at once of wise summing-up and youthful energy. Occasionally Arturo Tamayo’s tempos seem a little on the cautious side, and the highly resonant ambience doesn’t always favour

Petrassi’s intricate polyphony and tart scoring, which presuppose if anything a rather dry sound. But these are sterling, glowing interpretations nonetheless, and the Netherlands

orchestra rises magnificently to the occasion. The taut, highly focused account of the previously elusive Sixth Concerto is the most gripping performance of this work I have


heard. A triumph. Calum MacDonald