De Sabata

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: La notte di Plàton; Gethsemani; Juventus
Though a few recordings made by Victor de Sabata (1892-1967) remain available, his own music is neglected. Yet there’s surely still a place in the repertoire for one at least of these three works, Juventus (Youth), which was once championed by both Toscanini and Richard Strauss. A conductor gifted with a fabulous ear, de Sabata the composer wrote for the orchestra as for a single instrument, knowing when to change his colours and how to field the most dazzling effects. Lacking Respighi’s talent for precise transcription of sight into sound, he established nonetheless a real presence in his own music, warmly affable and full of sincerely felt passion.


The resemblance between Juventus and Strauss’s Don Juan adds another layer of enjoyment to the score. Even more richly embroidered is the unlikely fusion of Italian Romanticism and philosophy in La notte di Plàton (1923), an orchestral parable of the eternal conflict between the sensual and spiritual, and profligate in good ideas. Steeped in the contours of Gregorian chant, Gethsemani (1925) strikes a more reflective note. Though it contemplates the starry heavens, its true subject, in common with de Sabata’s other work, seems to be his pure joy in exuberant musical creation. Nicholas Williams