works on the first disc were commissioned by Italian Radio and
first performed in Capri on 15 September 1948.
Malipiero's Mondo Celesti for voice and ten instruments
is in two parts, the first being purely orchestral and vastly
superior. It is, at times, extraordinarily beautiful and has a
decidedly religious atmosphere and the sounds of a quiet warm
day. Indeed the music has a heavenly and ethereal quality but
all the music seems to have nothing but an introductory feel.
The voice enters after 6'30" but I did not respond to this singer's
voice as it was, at times, too heavy for a work of such evocation
and contemplation. It needs a lighter and purer voice with an
innocent sound. The simplicity of this amorous music is disturbed
by the dominant soprano. In the instrumental parts there are some
ravishingly beautiful sounds. I have often thought that this piece
would have fared better with a wordless soprano part blending
into the instrumental texture.
Milhaud is hugely enjoyable music based on sonatas by the
early French composer Jean Baptiste Anet (1661-1755) who was a
pupil of Corelli and a virtuoso violinist in his own right. I
am not convinced that Milhaud's bringing 18th century music into
the 20th century really works since the spirit of the music is
lost. On the positive side Milhaud eschews all those ghastly and
infuriating ornaments that bedevilled this early music with those
grinding rallentandos that ended movements. Nonetheless the reworking
is sincere and the music is very attractive. Apart from a treble
cut the sound is good, particularly with the string players, and
the performance by the young Giulini is excellent. However the
sound is suspect in the fast music particularly the final allegro.
the Petrassi we encounter the first really original work
on the disc. There is always a problem with the harpsichord being
swamped by the orchestra and, occasionally, it is here. But all
the various characteristics of the harpsichord are magnificently
caught by this brilliant composer who deserves a major revival.
After all, he is the father of contemporary Italian music. The
opening movement, is episodic but full of interest and innovation.
The tripartite adagio is quite superb - profoundly moving and
never cloying. It has some subtle punctuation and evolves with
great logic and coherence. There is a lachrymosal feel and occasional
bursts of brief anger and the shaking of bones. It is beautifully
written. The vivace is playful rather that quick and sometimes
curiously subdued. It is a clever jibe at the tedium of academica
- its predictability and restrictions. This work is such a contrast
to the marvellous Concertos for orchestra and Petrassi's unsurpassed
Vlad is a Rumanian composer born in 1919. He studied in Rome
with Casella. He is the author of a book on Stravinsky and came
to the Dartington Summer School in 1954 and 1955. His is a rare
talent but he is ignored. This Divertimento is the best work on
these two discs. It may not have the immediacy of the Milhaud
but is a better piece. The opening allegretto is quick and conjures
up a movie scenario of a quiet but strong wind bending trees.
There is a lot of drama here and Giulini is on top form. The second
movement is a theme and five variations namely a march, a waltz,
a galop, an ostinato and a final largo. The movement opens with
a rising tension that is really very well worked and effective.
The march is sardonic and highlights the pomposity of the action
with sneers and a terrific menace. The waltz is a wonderful send-up
of another type of pomposity, social arrogance when overdressed
members of society in the city's season indulged themselves. The
slushy sickly music of the waltz is also lampooned in its attempts
to conceal the sleaziness of many such ‘society’ occasions. The
galop is fun with hints of A-hunting we will go but what
follows is some of the creepiest music you will ever hear. With
apologies to Bernard Herrmann and his excellent score for the
Hitchcock film Psycho but with Vlad's music I feel that
I am approaching Bates' Motel in the dark and driving rain. Scary
music. The final Largo has a grandeur but, thankfully, devoid
of that sickly Edwardian pomposity. The final movement is a Rondo
brillantly written with layers of sound, original scales and dodecaphonic
styles as well. This is an example of the most excellent craftsmanship.
It abounds in an originality that is totally satisfying.
suppose that those who will appreciate this work are those who
are musicians who can detect and realise the sheer genius of it.
second disc is of orchestral music conducted by Mitropoulos.
contemplated writing a work based on a poem by Antonio Lamberti
and which was written in a Venetian dialect. The composer often
declared his love for Venice but from 1933 he toyed with this
project. Its realisation was in 1948 but without a vocal or choral
part and it was entitled Symphony of Songs.
symphony begins with a short allegro. Like much of Malipiero's
music it is acceptable but never special or outstanding. The second
movement is marked lento quasi andante and hints at beauty
even if it does not express it fully. It is pleasant enough but
could be called melodic nullity. It is difficult to follow the
structure and direction of the music however glowing it is … which
sometimes it is. The third movement is headed allegro impetuoso
but it is not impetuous. Again it is pleasant and presents
no problems to the listener but, as throughout the symphony, there
is nothing substantial to grab our attention. There is some choice
finale is a long slow movement and it is sometimes beautiful in
a lukewarm sort of way. But it does not come across as a whole
but, rather, as a collection of small pieces of various colours
stitched together into a musical patchwork quilt.
symphony is out of balance. In its four movement we have about
eight minutes of moderately paced music and twice as much of slower
music. We must continue to lament that lively and vital music
seems to be lost or a mere rarity today. The wonderful vivacity
and classical structure of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven has, in
the main, long been discarded.
is a revered British composer who has a hour long symphony of
which only 9 minutes are brisk.
at this Malipiero symphony the opening movement is merely a prelude,
the second is a sunny idyll more akin to a tone poem and so on.
music is impressionistic and it lacks any drama. It is pleasant
but somewhat inconsequential.
so to Alfredo Casella's transcription of the long Chaconne
from Bach's Solo Violin Suite no. 2 in D minor. This is a
movement far too long for the suite in which it is placed. Casella
referred to it as a monumental masterpiece. Well, maybe, but some
say it is trammelled by academic restrictions. However, I do recommend
Hilary Hahn's performance of it on Sony Classics SK62793.
am of the view that of the transcriptions of Bach's work. Stokowski
was the best and Elgar the worst. In Elgar's transcription of
Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, Elgar uses a harp! Casella
is wiser and discerning. He is a far better composer but even
this does not work! There are some good moments which one can
only admire but neither the transcription nor the sound on this
recording does anything. There is a lack of colour but I suppose
that that could be said of the original as it only has a violin
Giulini disc is worth having for many reasons, but I am not so
sure about the Mitropoulos disc!
C F Wright