Respighi: Pini di Roma; Fontane di Roma; Feste Romane

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Respighi
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Pini di Roma; Fontane di Roma; Feste Romane
PERFORMER: Pittsburgh SO/Lorin Maazel
CATALOGUE NO: SK 66843
Since the dawn of the hi-fi era, Respighi’s triptych has provided sound engineers seeking to reproduce the brilliance and finesse of its orchestral writing with major challenges. This new version scores highly in terms of definition but less so in supplying that spaciousness that the lucid textures of Fountains, in particular, presuppose. The rampant representation of Ancient Rome’s military forces blazing up the Appian Way at the end of Pines, however, has a properly imperial splendour.

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At best the trilogy exhibits the composer’s ability to maintain into adulthood that childlike sense of wonder whose loss Wordsworth lamented: in middle age his aural visions still shone with ‘the glory and the freshness of a dream’. Maazel’s performances hardly capitalise on the languid poetry evoked by Respighi’s Roman dawns and dusks, but his attention to balance and structure pays dividends.

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Though offering limited opportunities for conducting of existentialist tendencies, these symphonic poems demand the highest standards of orchestral virtuosity, and with their lavish woodwind tone, sheeny, tensile strings, refulgent brass and uproarious percussion, this is precisely what the Pittsburgh players deliver. George Hall