This disc offers four less well known examples of Respighi's orchestral music which illustrate very different aspects of the composer's works.
Rossiniana of 1925 is similar in sources and style to the famous Boutique Fantastique ballet written seven years later. It is brilliantly orchestrated and very tuneful but unlike the ballet, is composed as an orchestral suite and the development is in some ways more interesting than that of the ballet. Possibly the main reason for its lack of popularity is the rather low key opening. It is very well played here and the piece deserves to be better known.
Metamorphoseon modi XII was commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky for the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It is strongly influenced by Gregorian Chant and consists of a solemn tune followed by 12 variations (in the 12 church modes) and a stirring finale. It is a work of great sonority and orchestral virtuosity, which reveals its secrets only after repeated hearings. The performance is good overall, but rather let down by a less than exciting final movement and rather recessed brass playing. An alternative recording of this piece is available on Chandos, where the Philharmonia Orchestra is conducted by Geoffrey Simon in a very fine version, stunningly recorded.
Burlesca of 1906 is a short work of scherzo-like character with iridescent orchestration and impressionistic tonality. There are also hints of the later Fountains of Rome. This is well played and recorded. Despite the claims on the sleeve, this is not a first recording (Adriano recorded it for Marco Polo).
The Respighi orchestral version of Bach's Passacaglia in C minor was first played by Arturo Toscanini in New York in 1930. It is a work of great orchestral brilliance which remains true to the spirit of the original piece by Bach; thus it is similar in general approach to Malipiero's Vivaldiana - in homage to Vivaldi.
George Hanson, who is musical director of the Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra (whose history goes back for more than 130 years) conducts these often difficult works well. The recording produces a very natural rounded sound. Overall this is an interesting disc which forms a good introduction to some of Respighi's less familiar orchestral works.