> Ottorino Respighi - Gregorian Concerto [NH]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Poema Autunnale (Autumn Poem)
Trittico Botticelliano (Three Botticelli Pictures - Spring, the Adoration of the Magi, The Birth of Venus)*
Concerto Gregoriano (Gregorian Concerto)
Viktor Simcisko, violin
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Ondrej Lenard, conductor
*Zilna Chamber Orchestra
*Jan Valta, conductor
Recording dates and venues not stated.
CAMPION RRCD 1316 [60.35]


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This CD represents, for me, a little personal flashback to the recent past as well as presenting some fine, neglected works. Campion Records was formerly based, including the time when this recording was first released, in Bank Square, Wilmslow, (my place of residence for the last five years), sharing premises with the late, lamented and totally wonderful Rare Records (John and Brian, you are greatly missed!). It is now one of the labels distributed by DI Music, located in nearby Cheadle (a personal source of, among other things, discs from Murray Khouri's superb New Zealand based Continuum imprint).

Anyone familiar with Respighi's most widely known orchestral works (the Roman Trilogy, Ancient Airs and Dances and The Birds), may be forgiven for thinking that, at times (in fact, most of the time) they are listening to the work of someone else. While the Poema Autunnale is quite lush in its orchestration, there is a melancholic aspect to it that suggests the wistful half-light of a Bax or Delius. It also, for me, has resonances of Howells and Vaughan Williams (the suite for viola, especially), rather than the triumphalism of a Strauss. The piece has several glorious moments, for both soloist, orchestra and a combination of the two, and its relative neglect seems totally unjustified. Devotees of composers such as Elgar or Finzi may find the inherent but uncloying nostalgia of this music very amenable.

The Trittico Botticelliano is one of Respighi's most accessible scores and this performance is licensed from the Czech label Opus, whereas the other works on the disc are from (extremely good) Slovak Radio recordings. If you are interested in acquiring this work alone and, even better, if you are a fan of Martinů, the same (excellent) performance is included on a disc from the ultra-bargain Point Classics (not the Philip Glass label) along with Martinů's shimmering Sinfonietta La Jolla and has recently been obtainable for around 2 in certain remainder shops. Why not do yourself a favour and buy both discs; the pieces inspired by specific Botticelli paintings consist of two sun-drenched, impressionistic landscapes (as a comparison, Ravel's Daphnis and Chlöe springs to mind) framing a more intense central meditation on the famous advent theme Veni, Veni Emmanuel.

The first two movements of the concerto contain a great deal of meditative, slow music and are absolutely not vehicles for displays of great virtuosity or musical pyrotechnics and, although the finale opens in very energetic Copland/Harris "outdoor" mode, it too is primarily lyrical, with a very memorable folklike tune at its heart. This work may well appeal to those who have enjoyed the Naxos American Classics discs of the Walter Piston and William Schuman concertos; though not necessarily similar in inspiration they share with this work an integrity and lack of superficial "showiness" which is, unfortunately, not always a characteristic of this medium. Other works which I feel fall into a similar category include Martinů's Rhapsody-Concerto for viola and E.J. Moeran's Violin Concerto.

All in all this is a lovely disc and potentially a real eye opener for anyone who thinks Respighi's music is only about the Pines and Fountains of Rome. The booklet is fairly minimal in its content but useful as a brief guide to the music and the composer's wider career.

Neil Horner

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