Respighi: La boutique fantasque; La pentola magica; Prelude & Fugue in D (after Bach)

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Respighi
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: La boutique fantasque; La pentola magica; Prelude & Fugue in D (after Bach)
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10081
Respighi’s recasting of a clutch of Rossini tunes, La boutique fantasque, is full of loud, confident music, and in spite of a marked strain of hamminess is undeniably infectious and enjoyable. The BBC Philharmonic under principal conductor Gianandrea Noseda plays it all with a straight face and makes a real success of things. Horns are bright and brilliant, strings ebullient, everything as gross and brash as the music demands, switching to a pleasurably melting and sentimental mood for the ‘Valse lente’ movement and culminating in a noisy, declamatory and expertly rendered fugato.

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The less well-known ballet La pentola magica (The Magic Pot) is, by contrast, a charming and dreamy affair, conceived by Respighi as a set of pastiches of various Russian composers combined with his own compositions in Russian folk style. Players and conductor leave behind the antics of Boutique and instil in their place a delicate and innocent naivety that is frequently extremely affecting. And then it is back to Respighi the extrovert for his ‘orchestral interpretation’ of a prelude and fugue by JS Bach, a monstrous curiosity that throws in a piano – why on earth not? – and is utterly irrepressible and great fun.

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There are plenty of versions of La boutique fantasque in the catalogue, but unless one is particularly addicted to Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops (RCA), this new Chandos recording – with its unusual and rather extraordinary couplings – is the one I would go for. Christopher Wood