Petrassi: Concertos for Orchestra (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Petrassi
LABELS: Warner Fonit
WORKS: Concertos for Orchestra (complete)
PERFORMER: BBC SO, Philharmonia Hungarica, Milan RAI SO/Zoltán Peskó
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-83274-2 ADD Reissue (1972-81)
There are eight of these concertos, spanning almost 40 years of Goffredo Petrassi’s creative life, and mapping his stylistic evolution more accurately than any other aspect of his output. As the brassy, propulsive First Concerto of 1934 shows, it was a development that began in neo-classicism, with debts to Stravinsky and Hindemith; there are even hints of the balletic Prokofiev in the opening of the single-movement Second composed 17 years later. But by 1953, the time of the Third, which Petrassi called Récréation concertante, the discontinuities of postwar music had percolated into his thinking; some of the elements remain the same, but there are also jagged, pointilliste moments, and a fascination with orchestral texture and timbre for their own sake.

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That highly charged, and highly coloured language characterises the remaining concertos, though the Fourth, for strings only, is a more explicit homage to Bartók. The finest of them all seems to me to be No. 7, composed in 1964, which impressively builds an organic single-movement form out of a sequence of discrete elements; the ideas are striking, the dramatic pacing acute and the emotional spectrum wide. The performances of all the concertos under Zoltán Peskó are vivid; this is a rewarding and significant survey. Andrew Clements