WORKS: Ancient Airs and Dances (Suite III); Botticelli Triptych; Violin Concerto (Il belprato); Concerto for Strings
PERFORMER: Accademia Bizantina/Carlo Chiarappa (violin/conductor)
CATALOGUE NO: CO-78916 DDD
A powerful leitmotif in much 20th-century Italian music is an indebtedness to musical traditions of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. On this disc, the popular Third Suite from Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, affectionate arrangements for string orchestra of 16th-century lute pieces, provides the most obvious manifestations of such a tendency. But images of the past also infuse the other pieces. Vivaldi is a potent influence on the energetic Violin Concerto by Ghedini (1892-1965), as well as that of the atmospheric ‘Birth of Venus’ from Respighi’s Botticelli Triptych, a composition inspired by three paintings by the great Florentine.
Members of the Accademia Bizantina are at their most impressive in the works for string orchestra, all of which are delivered with commitment and sensitivity. In addition, they deserve praise for promoting the causes of Ghedini, a composer best remembered as Berio’s first teacher, and Rota (1911-79), whose reputation is based almost entirely on his voluminous output of film music. Although neither of their works is particularly memorable, they are both attractive and direct in expression.
Yet for all my enthusiasm for such an imaginative programme, I cannot give this disc an unqualified recommendation. The major snag is Botticelli Triptych, marred by some imprecise ensemble and poor wind intonation, and much inferior in musical characterisation to a recent recording of the same work from Hugh Wolff and the St Paul Chamber Orchestra on Teldec. Erik Levi