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Gian Francesco MALIPIERO (1882-1973)
Sette invenzioni (7 inventions)
Quattro invenzioni (4 inventions)
Symphonic fragments from the opera Il finto Arlecchino

Veneto Philharmonic Orchestra/Peter Maag
NAXOS 8.555515 [63:03]
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The most significant work on this album is the 28-minute Sette invenzione which is really film music originally created for a film called Acciacio (Steel). Indeed the opening dissonant bars of the first and last inventions might suggest heavy rollers and hammers but little else evokes heavy machinery. Instead we have a delightful, timeless kaleidoscope of evocative imagery very colourfully scored for a large modern orchestra that weds cheerful wit to classical elegance, warm pastoral nostalgic dreaming with liturgical majesty. Sometimes the music is heroic and dramatic. Ancient church modes rub shoulder with a style akin to Vaughan Williams's 'Thomas Tallis' music. Yet this music is unmistakably Italian. Music to set the imagination aflame, crisply and articulately performed by Maag's forces.

The Quattro invenzioni were part of the same film score and have characteristics in common with the 7 inventions except that they are scored for a smaller ensemble and therefore the atmosphere is more intimate, more archaic and rustic. In fact they were conceived to underscore scenes of village life, a country fair (this brilliant evocation is especially colourfully orchestrated), and the inside of an inn. These are attractive simple melodies resembling Musettes in a late Baroque suite.

Even more overtly 18th century in style is Malipiero's enchanting light-weight music for his opera Il finto Arlecchino. The album includes four symphonic fragments - delicate and enchanting music with a gorgeous romantic minuet in the middle of the opening Allegro balanced by robust buffoonery elsewhere.

Malipiero became president of the Istituto Italiano Antonio Vivaldi and edited several volumes of the 'Red Priest's' music. Ultimately, he felt the urge to be more creative and freer with some of the material and thus composed his Vivaldiana. It is an imaginatively colourful transcription for classical orchestra (consisting of double woodwind, two horns and strings) of excerpts from six different Vivaldi concertos gathered together into three double movements each of them subdivided by a change of mood and tempo.

Colourful atmospheric music for the larger ensemble to set the imagination soaring contrasted with the elegance and delicacy of smaller forms and older styles. Music to savour played with wit and style.

Ian Lace

another view from  Arthur Baker

Malipiero was influenced by Stravinsky and Debussy and was considered by many to be the most original and interesting Italian composer of his generation. As he was a contemporary of Respighi this is a big claim. He was a very prolific composer, writing 11 symphonies, eight concertos, 6 ballets and over 40 operas in addition to many other orchestral, choral and instrumental works. However (excepting the symphonies which are complete on Marco Polo), very little of his music has been recorded and Naxos is to be thanked for giving us a chance to hear some of his orchestral music.

In addition to his original compositions, Malipiero was involved in the preparation of old Italian music for publication; he was very interested as a musicologist in the works of Monteverdi and of Vivaldi. Vivaldiana was his own tribute to the music of Vivaldi and is an imaginative transcription for orchestra of excerpts from six different Vivaldi concertos. It is a very striking piece in three movements which could almost have been written by that great composer apart from the very imaginative modern orchestration. Most enjoyable!

The opera 'Il finto Arlecchino' is a light-hearted evocation of eighteenth century Venice and the music of these Symphonic Fragments reflects this spirit very well. The work is written in the typical neo-classical style similar to that of Stravinsky and Respighi. It is tuneful and has a pungent zest which is very attractive.

The Four Inventions is taken from music which Malipiero had written for a film of country life. It is written in formal manner with neo-eighteenth century overtones. It is written for a small orchestra, and its pastoral manner makes it an interesting work to listen to.

However, the Seven Inventions, which is also based on film music, is very different. The dissonant first and last movements were written to depict steel making and have strong overtones of Mossolov's famous (infamous?) 'Iron Foundry' depicting a similar scene. As a whole the work suffers from a rather patchy and unstructured feel, which gives the impression that the composition is following film action rather than being composed for musical form. This is rather strange as the music was not accepted for the film. The absence of clear-cut musical format makes listening rather an unsettling experience as one tries to make sense of what seems to be a kaleidoscope of colourful melodic and orchestral ideas.

Overall the present disc does not persuade this reviewer that Malipiero is superior to Respighi or other contemporaries writing in similar vein at the same time. As none of his major works is represented here, this may not be a fair assessment. However this is an interesting disc which has many attractive features. It is well played and well recorded and will be of interest to all who are fascinated by the music being written in Italy in the first half of the last century. It has an attractive sleeve and useful notes by John C. G. Waterhouse.

Arthur Baker

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