WORKS: Ballad of the Gnomes; Adagio with Variations; Suite for Strings and Organ; Three Botticelli Pictures
PERFORMER: Philharmonia/Geoffrey Simon
CATALOGUE NO: CACD 1007 DDD
Geoffrey Simon can always be relied upon to dig out long-forgotten works. Here he alights on the previously unrecorded Ballad of the Gnomes, a symphonic poem based on a bizarre turn-of-the-century Italian poem about two female gnomes seducing a male of the species and promptly throwing him off a cliff in a dervish-like, ritual dance. This provides Respighi, in typically over-stated picture-postcard mode, with the makings of a graphic orchestral showpiece – more colour and effect than substance — yet played persuasively by the Philharmonia.
By the nature of their subject matter, the Three Botticelli Pictures are similarly musically representational, though here the musical character is stronger and results in one of Respighi’s undoubted masterpieces. Unfortunately Simon emphasises colour at the expense of vitality and the result is a little bland.
The remaining couplings are an attractive Adagio with Variations for cello and orchestra, with Alexander Baillie a committed soloist, and a rather predictable Romantically-viewed Baroque-style Suite for Strings and Organ. Matthew Rye