I have been listening to a lot of non-operatic Italian
music recently (including the neo-classical approach of Malipiero and
Casella). This disc has to rank fairly highly against other more fêted
and familiar music of a similar temporal provenance (R. Strauss, Mahler
… even Elgar, I suppose). This compilation of mainly shorter works is
drawn from ASV's original, acclaimed series of symphonies and concertos
etc. and portrays Martucci in a very favourable light, particularly
in the extended song cycle La Canzone dei Ricordi.
The main vocal piece in the cycle sets the poems of
Pagliara against some ravishing but still relatively restrained (spare?)
music; the nostalgic atmosphere, thoroughly entered into by the excellent
soprano (Rachel Yakar), unsurprisingly brings to mind Richard Strauss's
Four Last Songs. I wouldn't care to suggest that their mastery,
as written by the then thirty year old composer, reaches those peaks
but, equally, I would happily admit that this music (in general) does
rather more for me than many of the German's more bombastic utterances.
The other, purely orchestral pieces range from around
four minutes in length to nearly twelve. They are all highly listenable,
particularly for anyone broadly sympathetic to the late-romantic mindset
but perhaps a little wary of some of the excesses of the era. I enjoyed
the Colore Orientale and Notturno most but all the works
display a sureness of touch and delicacy, amid admittedly opulent textures.
They bring to mind, variously, both Fauré and Debussy, as well
as the more obvious Wagner (Siegfried Idyll, Tristan prelude
etc.), the aforementioned Strauss and even early Schoenberg.
This is music that is hard to pin down, difficult to
pigeonhole (a good thing surely!) and while I cannot pretend that it
is overburdened with memorable tunes (not to the extent that, say, Respighi's
is) it is a thoroughly enjoyable listen and, by turns, both stimulates
and relaxes - a quality that not a great deal of music can claim the
ability to do. An interesting and entertaining, if not massively enlightening,
disc. Performance, recording and packaging (booklet notes included)
are very good indeed.