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Sergio RENDINE (b 1954)
Symphony No.1 (2006) [34:28]
Symphony No.2, Andorrana (2007) [26:43]
Orquestra Nacional Classica d’Andorra (ONCA)/Marzio Conti
rec. 1-2 December 2007 (Symphony No.1), 21-22 October 2007 (Symphony No.2), Auditori Nacional d’Andorra a Ordino, Principat d’Andorra DDD
NAXOS 8.572039 [61:11]  
Experience Classicsonline

This is the real thing! True symphonic music, full of tunes, high drama, arresting ideas, tender slow movements, fun finales. Rendine is an Italian composer who wrote both his symphonies, one immediately after the other, at the instigation of Marzio Conti. And we must thank him for that.

Rendine’s 1st Symphony begins with a call to arms, direct and incisive. This man obviously means business. The first movement is full of drama, the composer never lets go of the reins and keeps an high degree of tension during the headlong forward momentum. The slow movement begins in a somewhat distant manner but soon Rendine has built a warm atmosphere and the tunes just keep coming. After this the finale will come as a shock – it’s true fiesta music. Drums, whirling woodwind, strings unpinning it all, then we’re off. It’s great fun. Like the first movement the music never lets up in its forward momentum, the difference is that there’s no problems here, no drama, just total enjoyment. So exuberant is this music that I was reminded of the words of an old song:

"It's just an invitation across the nation
A chance for folks to meet
There'll be laughing, singing, music swinging…

So come on ev'ry guy grab a girl
Ev'rywhere around the world
They're dancing in the street…"

and Rendine has us all doing just that.

I want to rush into my kitchen and make spaghetti bolognese so as to keep the warm Italian feeling going. The music is welcomingly tonal, brilliantly orchestrated, easily assimilated and wildly enjoyable. I should point out that although the composer has stated that this finale is based on a theme from an old Neapolitan tarantella funebre, this is no macabre dance.

The 2nd Symphony is an homage to Andorra. It begins with some very impressionistic sounds. The woodwind swirl, the brass call, the strings arpeggiate. It’s all very mysterious. Then the oboe gives a long tune, the strings, in fine harmony, take up the strand. When the allegro breaks in it’s with an angular theme for the horns, and what a theme it is. Strings and trombones argue, then there’s relief, an easier–going idea, but obviously a continuation of the earlier idea, coloured with brass and glockenspiel. It’s wonderful stuff. A slight reminiscence of the fiesta and we’re back to a repeat of the opening idea. It reminds me of a restrained version of the first movement of Laszlo Lajtha’s truly astonishing 9th Symphony. There’s drama aplenty but this time it’s tempered with moments of repose and dance. Again, this is superb stuff.

The slow movement is elegiac, stately in gait, very serious, with some lovely writing for strings and woodwind. The finale is another dance movement but subdued, without the wild fantasticism of the finale of No.1.

These two works are real Symphonies insofar as they follow true symphonic lines. And they are both very enjoyable. I take exception to the notes in the booklet – below Naxos’s usual standard – for the ludicrous statement, claiming that "few composers…of the recent past, have feared to measure themselves against the symphony…" the writer completely fails to notice the English symphonic achievement (the unnamed writer is referring to conventional symphonies in a tonal idiom, claiming that Henze doesn’t count because his works "are part of a repertoire to which little or nothing remains of the formal genre…") of everyone from VW, to Rubbra and Malcolm Arnold. Another odd thing about the booklet is that it although it contains photos and biographies of the band the conductor and the leader it contains no information about the composer!

This is a disk of music to enjoy and revel in the great tunes, the gloriously colorful orchestrations and vital performances, in excellent sound. Rendine may not be the great Symphonic composer the notes claim him to be but he can write and write appealing music. At the price you can’t lose.

Bob Briggs


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