Respighi: Vetrate di chiesa; Impressioni brasiliane; Rossiniana

WORKS: Vetrate di chiesa; Impressioni brasiliane; Rossiniana
PERFORMER: Buffalo PO/JoAnn Falletta
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.557711
Scanning the concert repertoire of international symphony orchestras, one might easily get the impression that Italian composers have written virtually no orchestral pieces worth performing. It’s an assumption colourfully challenged by this valuable new CD of three neglected scores by Ottorino Respighi.The four Vetrate di chiesa, composed 1925, don’t actually depict real ‘church windows’ (the descriptive names were devised after the composition was completed), but they are packed full of attractive melodic writing and highly satisfying orchestration. The influence of Rimsky-Korsakov, Respighi’s one-time teacher, is palpable in the skirling woodwind orientalisms of the opening ‘Flight into Egypt’ section. The three movements of Brazilian Impressions (1928) are darker-hued and more mysterious, but again brimming with sonically exquisite passages: the late Michael Oliver wrote aptly of the ‘queer sort of Debussian grace’ to be found in ‘Butantan’, where Respighi encountered poisonous reptiles at a snake farm>In Rossiniana, a suite Respighi composed in 1925 based on tunes gleaned from piano music by his great Italian predecessor, conductor JoAnn Falletta highlights the delicacy of Respighi’s scoring in the little third movement ‘Intermezzo’, and deftly avoids too heavy-handed an approach to the mainly boisterous ‘Tarantella’ finale. One can imagine rhythmically sharper performances than the Buffalo Philharmonic’s, which is why I would continue to recommend the splendid accounts of Windowsand Impressions in López‑Cobos’s beautifully engineered Telarc issue with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. For ,Rossiniana, there’s a fine Ansermet performance on the inexpensive Australian Eloquence imprint.