Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Feste romane; Pini di Roma
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Le Coq d'or (Suite)
The Cleveleand Orchestra conducted
by Lorin Maazel
DECCA Legends 466 993-2
When this 1976 recording was released, the Gramophone reviewer said, "There
really is no point in making comparisons here. Maazel's account of
Roman Festivals is something of a revelation - by far the finest
recording this work has ever achieved. The sophistication of the Decca sound
picture is really breathtaking and high praise must be given to the recording
for the skill and musicality of the balance."
High praise indeed! So what does it sound like now comparing it to all the
newer digital recordings that have been released since? Well, for a start
this reissue has been refurbished in 96KHz 24-bit digital transfer sound.
The result is even more clarity and transparency and added perspectives.
The opening 'Cirenses' of Feste romane has real power and bite, the
scene grisly and barbaric, and, as Ivan March writing in the booklet notes,
aptly describes it, it has "true Roman gladiatorial vulgarity. The following
'Il giubileo' sounds really magnificent: pacing, phrasing, dynamics - all
impressive. The pious pilgrims sound wearied by their journey but their
jubilation at their first sight of Rome, and hearing her bells, is breathtaking.
'L'ottobrata' also impresses strongly with the Cleveland's splendid horns
leading into the revelry. The lovely mandolin and violin solos are beguiling.
The concluding 'La Befana' is a wild and colourful Epiphany celebration that
is tremendously exciting.
The accompanying performance of Pini di Roma is something special
too. The excited shrieks of children at play among the 'Pines of the Villa
Borghèsa' are very convincing and the 'Pines by a Catacomb', beginning
in solemnity, develops, via the glowingly hopeful trumpet solo, into a grand
crescendo at the sounds of approaching plainchant The 'Janiculum Pines' sound
nicely romantic and that nightingale is very sweet and is blended well. The
approaching juggernaut that is the Roman legions approaching between the
'Pines of the Appian Way' sounds tremendous.
Instead of Fontane di Roma, we have another first class performance
of Rimsky Korsakov's Le Coq d'or with Maazel revealing all its sensuality
and colour . The diaphonous sheen on the Cleveland strings in 'King Dodon
in his palace', sounds particularly ravishing.
Readers will probably remember that Maazel would record all three Respighi
Roman tone poems, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, for Sony, in 1996.
That newer digital recording is impressive too but I prefer these earlier
readings by a small margin