Casella Concerto for Orchestra; A notte alta; Symphonic Fragments

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COMPOSERS: Alfredo Casella
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Casella Concerto for Orchestra; A notte alta; Symphonic Fragments
WORKS: Concerto for Orchestra; A notte alta; Symphonic Fragments from ‘La donna serpent’
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano); BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda

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Another fascinating disc in Gianandrea Noseda’s series devoted to 20th-century Italian orchestral music. Casella’s music in many ways reflects the twists and turns of the first half of the century (the same might be said of Stravinsky, except that the century in turn reflected his music). This second disc of his works ranges from the relatively early A notte alta for piano and orchestra, with its Schoenbergian influences, to the colourful Concerto for Orchestra of 1937.

Casella’s lone foray into programme music, A notte alta was originally for solo piano and it has a dark beauty and some striking sonorities. Martin Roscoe is the exquisite soloist here, and this atmospheric performance should win some new friends for a work that is among Casella’s best. Many will also be attracted to the much more rambunctious Concerto for Orchestra. It may not be searching in the manner of Bartók or even Hindemith, but it is plenty of fun.

La donna serpente (The Serpent Woman) is Casella’s only full-scale opera, and these symphonic fragments suggest an inventive comic work which is not without moments of profundity. Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic capture the verve and spirit of Casella’s oft changing music.

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Christopher Dingle