WORKS: Poema autunnale; Suite in G; Il tramonto; Cantilena e scherzo
PERFORMER: Igor Gruppman (violin), Christopher Trakas (baritone), Marian Rian Hays (harp), Quartetto di Venezia; San Diego CO/Donald Barra
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7215-2 DDD
Respighi’s colourful music could have been written with the clear, full-bodied Chandos sound in mind. Following on from where Geoffrey Simon began for the label in the Eighties, Edward Downes is now exploring the more symphonic side of Respighi’s output, showing there is more to him than the Roman trilogy (if not that much, qualitatively). The present disc includes two of his four concertante works for piano and orchestra, the extended Toccata (according to Tozer’s booklet note, the longest such work in existence) and the quirky Slavonic Rhapsody, with its humorous sideswipe at Dvorák. More characteristic of Respighi is the concert overture derived from his opera Belfagor, about the exploits of a Till Eulenspiegel/Don Juan figure, portrayed with suitably colourful sound-painting. All these, together with the Bachian Three Chorales, are played with marvellous verve and commitment – the BBC PO under Downes has a way with this out-of-the-way repertoire that few can equal. The sound quality on this disc is nothing short of stunning.
The Koch disc inevitably pales a little by comparison. For one thing, apart from the evocative, even Vaughan Williams-like Autumnal Poem, the music is of a lesser quality. The setting for baritone and string quartet of Shelley’s ‘The Sunset’, in translation as Il tramonto, is interminable, particularly when no texts are provided (though plenty of space is found to tell you everything you never wanted to know about the San Diego musicians). The most attractive work, ironically, is the Menotti, even though it’s hard to tell it was written more than 50 years after the Respighi pieces. The chamber orchestra pieces are decently played and the various soloists characterful. Matthew Rye