Martucci: La canzone dei ricordi; Piano Concerto in B flat minor

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COMPOSERS: Martucci
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: La canzone dei ricordi; Piano Concerto in B flat minor
PERFORMER: Mirella Freni (soprano), Carlo Bruno (piano); La Scala PO/Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: SK 64582 DDD
La canzone dei ricordi is desert island material. Listening to Carol Madalin’s Respighi-coupled version on Hyperion, one could urge anyone with a penchant for Songs of the Auvergne (or A Room With a View) to head for the record shop right away.

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By contrast, Muti, after a tender opening, serves up something different – less song cycle, more overtly operatic. Freni herself seems to be engaging in a kind of personal Erwartung. Thus whispers of faintly recalled memory (‘O primavera, o giorni sorridenti’), seem to turn into all-too-present horrors; apoplexy rarely feels far away.

It’s a forcefully dramatic reading: Muti coaxes some searing solo playing from his La Scala orchestra: the dark clarinets of ‘Fior di ginestra’, faintly echoed at the close, are superbly savage. The drawback (some will love it) is that more delicate, crepuscular Tristanesque passages are given the full Liebestod treatment.

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It can get a bit overblown. So, too, can the Piano Concerto, but there’s more justification for this, given Martucci’s Brahms affiliation: the big line of both Brahms concertos emerges strongly here (albeit at the expense of phrasing and rubato). Martucci as a conductor did much to acquaint fellow Italians with still unknown German repertoire. If anyone comes to mind in the dimensions of this undeniably ‘big’ concerto, it is Busoni, who looked in similar directions. Worth exploring. Roderic Dunnett