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Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Suite: Pulcinella (1922)
Gian Francesco MALIPIERO (1882-1973)

Ricercari per undici instrumenti (1925)
Alfredo CASELLA (1883-1947)

Scarlattiana (1926)
Anthony Spiri (piano)
Basel Chamber Orchestra/Christopher Hogwood
Recorded March 2003, Culture and Convention Centre, Lucerne
ARTE NOVA 74321 92765 2 [59.17]


A really interesting programme from Christopher Hogwood and the Basel Chamber Orchestra on Arte Nova. Stravinsky’s Pulcinella is one of the most celebrated examples of 1920s neo-classicism (which is just as likely to be neo-baroque), so to join this music with further examples by Malipiero and Casella was inspired planning.

After the First World War the anti-romantic reaction became a driving force in music, though in truth it was part of a broadening of musical horizons and possibilities rather than a one-dimensional shift of emphasis. Stravinsky brought special life to the music of Pergolesi, his basis for the ballet score Pulcinella that in turn formed the basis for this orchestral suite. Now a centre-piece of the chamber orchestra repertory, this score demands the utmost virtuosity of its performers. Its demands are brilliantly met by Hogwood’s Swiss players here. The Tarantella and the final Allegro assai are particularly vital, while the celebrated duet for trombone and double bass has seldom been delivered with greater panache. Another aspect of this score is its significance for Stravinsky himself, who described it as "my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible".

Gian Francesco Malipiero was a leading composer and musicologist, who was deeply aware of the possibilities offered by the music of previous eras. His work on the music of Claudio Monteverdi, for instance, was of huge significance. These interests frequently influenced his own creative activities, and the Ricercari represents another example of this. Scored for a mixed ensemble of eleven instruments, the music seems to alternate between bustling contrapuntal vitality and a more reflective stillness. These contrasts naturally serve to enhance the character of each of these possibilities, while the music also reflects Malipiero’s awareness of existing trends, not least the contemporary music of Stravinsky. There are abundant subtleties at large here.

Casella’s Scarlattiana is a more directly engaging piece, in which entertainment is a higher priority. During its 25 minute five movement span the piece manages to include references to no fewer than eighty of Scarlatti’s sonatas, an extraordinary feat not only of musical organizing but also of sheer kleptomania. Here, as in the case of Malipiero, Hogwood and his orchestra give a committed performance which serves the composer and the music particularly well. He finds more interest in vitality than in reflection, but so, it seems, does Casella’s score.

Arte Nova achieve high production standards with clear and rich recorded sound. The booklet is well presented and the accompanying notes are thorough and informative.

Terry Barfoot



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