Respighi: Roman Trilogy (Buffalo/Falletta)

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta (Naxos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Roman Trilogy
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta
Naxos 8.574013   62:13 mins

It’s a long way from Buffalo to Rome, but the Buffalo Philharmonic players bridge the gap impressively in their new recording of Respighi’s trilogy of tone-poems based on the history and geography of the Italian city.

The disc opens with Roman Festivals, usually thought the knottiest of the trilogy. The whooping Buffalo brass have fun imitating the ‘howling of wild beasts’ Respighi describes in ‘Circus Maximus,’ but although there is plenty of adrenalin in the playing, JoAnn Falletta is careful not to press the after-burner button too early. If some of the instrumental solos in ‘Jubilee’ seem a touch subdued, ‘October Festival’ has twinkling buoyancy and colour, and the concluding ‘Epiphany’ is clamorous and dynamic without degenerating into chaos.

In Fountains of Rome Falletta distils a pleasing sense of sprightliness in the ‘Triton Fountain’ section. She builds a surging climax in ‘The Trevi Fountain,’ replete with Wagnerian overtones, and a seductive melancholy pervades nightfall at the ‘Villa Medici.’

The joyful dance rhythms in the ‘Villa Borghese’ movement of Pines of Rome are exuberantly pointed, and the trumpet solo in ‘Catacomb’ is tinglingly evocative. And while the closing ‘Pines of the Appian Way’ is predictably blockbusting, throughout the disc it’s Falletta’s ear for subtleties of orchestration and texture that is particularly striking. Though exciting, these are far from being smash-and-grab performances.

There are plenty of recordings of the Roman Trilogy available, but this one’s combination of budget price and refined, robust musicianship make it a genuine contender.

Terry Blain