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Vittorio GIANNINI (1903-1966)
Piano Concerto (1934) [41:12]
Symphony No.4 (1959) [23:22]
Gabriela Imreh (piano)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Spalding
rec. The Concert Hall, Lighthouse, Poole, June 2007  
NAXOS 8.559352 [64:34]
Experience Classicsonline

Giannini’s 1934 Piano Concerto is a fulsome, extrovert, wholly enjoyable work that, so the notes proclaim, hasn’t been performed since 1937. That a work of such melodic generosity has lain dustily encased is no great reflection on cultural arbiters but if it takes Naxos to bring it to wider notice then that’s all to the good. They have a fine protagonist in the shape of the Romanian Gabriela Imreh, a keen Bournemouth band and Daniel Spalding to direct. Spalding has been assiduous in ferreting out American truffles before now - Antheil is something of a Spalding speciality though he’s done other things of course, Hanson among them.

The Giannini Concerto is chockful of dynamism and energy. If it’s a bit prolix now and again, well we can probably admit of a little prolixity in the cause of a Rachmaninovian vision such as this. There’s some want – if we’re being analytical – of real memorability in some of those first movement ideas but I think the central movement makes up for this relative deficit with brimming romance and ‘old fashioned’ lyrical unfolding melodic arches. There’s plenty of variety and contrast in the finale with virtuosic runs and fusillading vibrancy for the soloist – plenty of orchestra colour and rhythmic vivacity too. There’s a lighthearted fugal diversion – often a sign of desperation, here cheeky – and then a driving, passionate surge to the line. Let’s get this one out into the concert hall once in a while.

The Fourth Symphony was written a quarter of a century later. It’s by and large a ‘neo-romantic’ work though that’s always to beg a stylistic and compositional question or two. It’s certainly a much more concise and terse work that the companion concerto – more harmonically advanced, and sporting some slightly surly if passionate themes. The central movement is lyrical and expressive with a harp to the fore. From time to time the brass rather over balance the strings which causes sectional obscurities but the lines for solo violin and winds are delicately taken, not least when Giannini thins his orchestration appreciably.  The finale is powerful, with percussion to the fore and moving from terse declamation to a widening grandeur and almost celebratory culmination. Is this one to rack up alongside Hanson and Creston? Perhaps not quite but it’s another work that deserves a real hearing.

Jonathan Woolf 



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