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Nicolas FLAGELLO (1928-1994)
Symphonic Aria (1951) [5:54]
Mirra (1955): Interlude and Dance [7:30; 3:17] The Sisters (1958): Interludio [6:37]
Violin Concerto (1956) [29:26]*
The Rainy Day
(1958) [4:59]*
The Brook
(1978) [3:21]*
Beyond the Horizon (1973): Ruth's Aria [3:05]*
Canto
(1978) [4:57]*
Polo I
(1979) [2:29]*
Polo II
(1980) [2:13]*
Elmar Oliveira (violin) Susan Gonzalez (soprano)
National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/John McLaughlin Williams
rec. Ukraine, 2006/7. DDD
* orchestrated by Anthony Sbordoni
ARTEK AR00362 [73:16]



The American composer Flagello was the model late-romantic composer. His own ideals are instantly evident from his music which in this selection includes a mix of operatic interludes, arias, songs and the Violin Concerto.
 
One might pretty loosely group Flagello with Barber, Giannini and Menotti. Take the Symphonic Aria. This has a magnificently claustrophobic intensity close to the psychologically complex moments of torment in Barber's opera Vanessa. This is music that broods magnificently with searing strings and gloomy ostinati. The Interlude and Dance from the opera Mirra recall the contrast between Barber's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance from Medea. The Dance is barbaric and full of propulsive and irritable grit. The Interlude from his opera The Sisters is gloomy and intensely romantic, with a ticking figure heavy with threat. The music rises to one of those decaying Hollywood climaxes one associates with nervy heroines and desperate hours.
 
The three movement Violin Concerto is a capricious and troubled work with a virtuoso solo line. The music is emotionally tempestuous and should appeal to anyone who enjoys the Barber or Menotti concertos. The andante con moto attains peace with Oliveira's violin whistlingly high in the register and confidingly quiet. The finale pounds away with plenty of rhythmic interest for orchestra and soloist amid reminiscences of the early movements. Some genuinely exciting Tchaikovskian writing distinguishes the final spiccato-spattered alla polacca pages. 
 
The remainder of the disc is taken up with songs for soprano and orchestra. Typically gloomy texts abound: “… and the day is dark and dreary” – not a million miles from Poe. The mood is uncannily close to Bernard Herrmann's more subdued scores. The Brook is a true concentrated scena with a magnificently operatic pulse and trajectory. The brooding Ruth's Aria is from Act III of the Eugene O'Neill opera Beyond the Horizon. Its Puccinian tension and release is truly potent. Canto sets another of the composer's own poems – clearly a tortured soul. Polo I and II are in much the same vein except here shot through with flamenco conflagration; think of the flamenco echoes in Falla’s El Amor Brujo and add an explosive tattoo of Stravinskian fire.
 
Rather like Martinů and Moeran, Flagello has a distinctive voice and once you are tuned in you will want everything there is. This disc is not perhaps the place to start. For an introduction go to the First Piano Concerto on Naxos 8.559296, the First Symphony on Naxos 8.559148 or the Piano Concertos 2 and 3 on Artek AR-0002-2. If you are already hooked then the present disc is indispensable … but when will we get to hear one of Flagello’s operas complete?
 
Rob Barnett
 



 

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