WORKS: The Birds; Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 1; Suite No. 3; 3 Botticelli Pictures
PERFORMER: Orpheus CO
CATALOGUE NO: 437 533-2 DDD
The Birds and Ancient Airs and Dances are free arrangements of pieces by Baroque composers originally for keyboard, lute or guitar. Respighi’s treatment of them is ingenious and resourceful, and he uses a small orchestra (in the third suite of Airs and Dances, one of strings only) with rare finesse. The Birds Preludio has a cheery bounce, the dove is duly plaintive. Indeed the whole programme, including the echt-Respighi Botticelli Pictures, could scarcely be more sympathetically played, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra matching every mood and inflexion, balance exemplary, the recording bright and clear.
The LPO disc is disappointing. Two of the items – Feste romane and Pini di Roma – are duplicated in a current reissue by the Cleveland Orchestra under Lorin Maazel. Rizzi takes a sluggish view of the Pines (24:25mins to Maazel’s 21:01 and Bátiz’s 18:47 on Naxos). The impetus often flags and the balance is variable. Even with the volume control set fairly high the quietest passages are almost inaudible, and the vibrant flock Maazel assembles for the famous birdsong in I pini del Gianicolo is in a different class altogether from Rizzi’s feeble twitterings. Go for Maazel in these pieces; or for Báatiz and the RPO, coupled as above. Wadham Sutton