Trittico Botticelliano; Il tramonto; Vetrate di chiesa
Anna Caterina Antonacci (soprano); Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège/John Neschling
BIS BIS2250 (hybrid CD/SACD)
John Neschling’s Respighi series has gradually been developing into the finest-ever survey of the composer’s orchestral output undertaken by a single conductor. This is volume five, and it is every bit as desirable as its predecessors.
Crucially, Neschling doesn’t over-dramatise Respighi’s music. ‘San Michele Arcangelo’, the second movement of Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows), is exciting without being sledgehammered into submission, enabling a full savouring of the piece’s typically variegated orchestration. ‘Il mattutino di Santa Chiara’, fluidly paced and laced with evocative wind solos, highlights Neschling’s gift for creating seductive orchestral balances. Even the blockbusting ‘San Gregorio Magno’ conclusion retains transparency, the subtle textures of the celeste registering just as tangibly as the more protrusive organ.
In the Trittico Botticelliano, ‘La Primavera’ is blithe and bouncy, the ensemble crisp without seeming over-regimented. There’s more beguiling woodwind soloing in ‘L’adorazione dei Magi’, and both there and in ‘La nascita di Venere’ Neschling mines suggestive veins of emotion in music too often presented as merely coloristic.
Soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci brings her extensive operatic experience to bear on Il tramonto, Respighi’s 16-minute setting of a poem by Shelley. Her steady, appealing tone and intelligent word-pointing give considerable pleasure, though it’s interesting to note how much more distinctive musically the two orchestral pieces seem by comparison (they both come from over a decade later).
The recorded sound is excellent, and especially enjoyable in SACD format. If you are following Neschling’s excellent series, don’t hesitate to buy this latest instalment.