Noseda conducts Casella orchestral works

Christopher Dingle enjoys the 20th-century Italian's surprising variety.

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COMPOSERS: Alfredo Casella
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Orchestral works, Vol. 4: Symphony No. 1; Elegia eroica; Symphonic Fragments from ‘Le couvent sur l’eau’
PERFORMER: Gillian Keith (soprano); BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda


Gianandrea Noseda’s Casella series goes from strength to strength. Casella may be a stylistic chameleon, but this is compelling music, and the works here offer much striking originality amid the fond eclecticism. Written in his early twenties, Casella’s First Symphony ingests the influence of the Russians, along with a dose of Franck. And yet the woodwind decorations just a few bars in take us briefly beyond the usual symphonic discourse, while the opening of the third movement presages later Vaughan Williams. Casella’s own view of his Symphony may have been disparaging, yet this impassioned performance underlines that composers are not always the best judges of their own music.


The anguished lament of the Elegia eroica, written in 1916 for an unknown soldier, is striking in its progression from the opening wrenched brass cries via a Stravinskyan march to assuaging calm. It comes as quite a shock after the delightfully inventive Symphonic Fragments from Le couvent sur l’eau, a reordering of material from Casella’s comic ballet. This sparkling music is immense fun, especially in such colourful and fleet-footed performances from Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic, while Gillian Keith’s magical vocalise in the Barcarolle is a highlight of the series.