Casella: Symphony No. 2 & Scarlattiana

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Scarlattiana
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano); BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda

Casella is best known for the neo-classical works of his maturity that made him a kind of Italian Poulenc. He also spent nearly two decades in Paris. It’s disconcerting, then, to find his Symphony No. 2 (1908-10) utterly immersed in the soundworld of Mahler, whose symphonies Casella knew by heart.
Its five movements lasting nearly 50 minutes, this is a major work which, if not quite on Mahler’s scale, retains the same structural restlessness and emotional scope. It would be easy to play spot the reference – a bit of string writing from the Resurrection symphony here, some martial gestures from the Sixth there – but this is a remarkable and engaging work in its own right, with some striking features. In particular, the beautiful opening of the final ‘Epilogo’ is breathtakingly beautiful.
A little scrappiness in the opening movement’s Allegro energico aside, the BBC Philharmonic and Gianandrea Noseda are both committed and convincing advocates in the premiere recording of this complex score. So is Martin Roscoe in Scarlattiana, a typically inventive arrangement of the composer’s sonatas that could not provide a greater contrast to the Symphony. Christopher Dingle