Gian Francesco MALIPIERO (1882-1973) The
Symphonies - Volume 1 Sinfoniadel Mare (1906)  Symphony No. 3 “dellecampane” (1944)  Symphony No. 4 “In memoriam” (1944-45) [24:58]
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Antonio de Almeida rec. Mosfilm Studio, Moscow, May-June 1993 first issued as Marco Polo 8.223602
NAXOS 8.570878 [72:29]
The Venetian-born Malipiero wrote eleven
numbered symphonies as well as the ‘Sinfonia
del Mare’ stretching from 1906 to 1969. It was the Marco Polo
label that presented them to us originally in the mid-1990s. It’s
good that Naxos have now re-issued them at budget
price in the hope that more music-lovers will tackle these rarely
heard works. This disc and the ones that will follow also act
as a firm memorial to that most quick-learning and versatile conductor
Antonio de Almeida who died suddenly whilst conducting in Pittsburgh in 1997.
Malipiero was an extraordinarily prolific composer
and that may be part of the problem. Like Darius Milhaud,
a similarly productive composer, he has been largely ignored.
This seems to be on the grounds that there is so much to take
in, with such a huge journey of adventure, that it might be best never to start. Well this
disc is quite probably a very good place to start.
Malipiero is a composer of several styles and
to a certain extent you can see them developing in these three
works. It’s best to start with the ‘Sinfonia
del Mare’ which is not much more than a student work - the composer
was 24. It contains the seeds of what is going to happen in later
years. I first heard this disc whilst sitting on a sun-lounger
in glorious sunshine overlooking the Adriatic near Ravenna. The calmness and delicacy of the
work’s opening matched the scene perfectly. So did the more troublesome
and windy section which takes up its middle portion - the Adriatic can be a harsh taskmaster on sailing
boats and can quixotically change its mood. All this is so superbly
summed up in this arch-shaped work. I have returned to it quite
a few times since then and with increasing pleasure. It should
also be remembered, as John Waterhouse says in his very interesting
booklet notes, that the composer had not yet been able to meet
“the better known sea music of Debussy which had been completed
only a few months before”. There are three Sinfonias
dating from the first decade of the century. The previous one
had been the ‘Sinfoniadeglieroi’ of 1905. After that Malipiero
only used the term ‘Symphony’.
The Third Symphony also offered much pleasure
in its four movements based on and inspired by bellringers,
especially those of St.Mark’sVenice at the end of the war. Here I must
add that the orchestral playing of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra
sometimes falls below international standard, especially in the
sound of the brass when exposed and in the high string passages.
One can mostly put this down to rushed rehearsal schedules and
unfamiliarity with the repertoire. The Malipiero symphonies should nevertheless be looked at again
and this time by a top-flight orchestra. Only then may full justice
be done to them. Having said that the ‘Sinfonia
del Mare’ comes off well as do parts of this work. The
Andante second movement is particularly beautifully played.
Malipiero enjoys the coranglais but it sounds a little too nasal
here – at least for my taste. It’s nevertheless interesting that
he often gives it rather oriental melodies which emphasize the
augmented second interval. The Scherzo is placed third
and is a very brief but rhythmically fascinating creation. The
work ends in a Lento with its “slow, solemn tread and the
most realistic bell-evocations of them all”. The closing epilogue
comprises the “more fully-scored, affirmatively bell-like return
of the second movement’s entire first section”. Apparently Ernst
Ansermet who knew the composer well
commented very astutely: “these symphonies are not thematic but
motivic, that is to say Malipiero uses melodic motifs … which generate other melodic
motifs … they reappear, but they do not carry the musical discourse
- they are, rather, carried by it”. As you listen you realize
the veracity of this remark. For example his use of progressive
tonality where the composer often ends a movement in a key unrelated
to the one in which it started.
The Fourth Symphony is a more serious affair,
ending in a long Lento - the longest of its four movements.
It also includes an almost StravinskianScherzo. The slow movement is said to be the most beautiful
which the composer penned. This is not surprising really as it
was written in memory of Natalie Koussevitzky. Her death also
resulted in Bartók’sConcerto for
Orchestra and Britten’sPeter
Grimes, both works also dedicated to her memory. Perhaps one
can also see this piece as a memorial to the war dead with its
reflective ending featuring the coranglais again.
As I have implied, I missed these symphonies first
time around on Marco Polo, probably because of mediocre reviews.
Despite the ordinariness of the orchestral playing and the somewhat
boxy recording I am looking forward to the next disc in the series
and to discovering more about a composer in whom the record industry
has taken little interest.
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