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Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
La primavera (Spring) – Cantata, P.136 (1922)* [44:46]
Quattro liriche su parole di poeti armeni, P.132 (1922) (arr. Adriano)** [9:11]
La pentola magica (The Magic Pot) – Ballet, P.129 (1919)^ [25:23]
* Richard Haan (baritone), Miroslav Dvorský (tenor), Jana Valásková (soprano), Vladimir Kubovčik (bass), Henrietta Lednarova (soprano), Beata Geriova (mezzo);
** Denisa Šlepkovská (mezzo-soprano); Vladimir Havran (flute), Michal Sintal (oboe), Gabriel Koncer, Ivan Viskup, Ivan (clarinets), Ivan Paulicka (bassoon), Frantisek Kovacs (trombone), Katarina Vavrekova (harp);
^Jakub Francisci (boy soprano);
*/**Slovak Philharmonic Chorus;
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Adriano
rec. Concert Hall of Slovak Radio, Bratislava, */** 4, 9 January, 19 February, 6 June, 1994; ^4-9 November, 1991. DDD
Texts not included.
NAXOS 8.570741 [79:20] 


Experience Classicsonline

This is a reissue of one-and-a-half Marco Polo recordings. La Primavera and Quattro liriche are taken from 8.223595 and La pentola magica from 8.223346, both listed in MusicWeb’s list of recommended Respighi recordings, to which the reissue should now be added. Both Marco Polos are still listed at full price in the Naxos catalogue, though I can’t see why anyone would wish to pay full price for the first of these when the reissue offers more music for a smaller price, unless it be for the more eye-catching Marco Polo cover.

Prospective purchasers should be aware that this is not the Technicolor Respighi of the Fountains and Pines of Rome and Feste Romane, or the pastiche Respighi of La Boutique fantasque (Rossini), Ancient Airs and Dances, The Birds (both from Renaissance and Baroque composers), Concerto Gregoriano, Concerto in modo misolidio, or Trittico Botticelliano (Gregorian chant), though parts of it come close to the last-named, in that both La Primavera and Quattro liriche set words by Armenian poets and the liriche employ Armenian musical themes. 

In fact, the listener is hardly likely to recognise those Armenian themes – I, for one, didn’t; I found the work somewhat ‘folksy’ and reminiscent of Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne. If you enjoy the Canteloube – of which, incidentally, there are very good Naxos recordings with Véronique Gens on 8.557491 – see review and review – and 8.570338 – see review – you should enjoy the Quattro liriche. Denisa Šlepkovská is slightly plummy in places, but not so much as to spoil my enjoyment – it’s the kind of mild plumminess that I almost wrote ‘is almost endemic to mezzos’, except that I’ve just been listening again to Janet Baker’s wonderfully plum-free Nuits d’Été. 

La Primavera, too, is an attractive work, with some Technicolor moments reminiscent of Pines of Rome and film music in general; though it slightly outstays its welcome at almost 45 minutes, the final Inno di Primavera or Hymn of Spring, makes up for any small longueurs which may have preceded it. If you want to sample this work, try the Inno on track 7 or I desideri del giovane, the Desires of Youth (track 3), with its engaging flute solo, ably performed by Vera Rasková. All the soloists in this cantata are capable, though none of them is exactly outstanding. Miroslav Dvorský as the voice of the young man, sounds a little strained on his highest notes, but I wouldn’t want to make this a major criticism; elsewhere his voice is quite resplendent, especially on track 6. 

La pentola magica was designed as a pastiche ballet but it is more the case that Respighi here imitates some upper-second-league Russian composers (Arensky) than that he borrows from them. Though lacking the immediate attraction of La boutique fantasque, the music is attractive enough and the performance is more than adequate. The young treble Jakub Francisi makes a real impression with his brief ethereal appearance in the Canzone armene (track13). This performance remains available on Marco Polo, coupled with Le astuzie di Colombina, which I trust that Naxos will now also reissue on a more generously filled CD, as they have done here. 

My only real reservation about recommending this version of la Pentola stems from the fact that a very good account of it comes coupled with La boutique fantasque on Chandos CHAN10081 (BBCPO/Noseda – see review). There is also a version on CPO with la Sensitiva and Aretusa which Ian Lace recommended to Rossini enthusiasts (CPO770 071-2 – see review). 

Everything on this reissue is more than acceptably performed and recorded. The notes, by conductor Adriano, edited by Keith Anderson, are excellent. They include detailed summaries of the first two works, especially La Primavera but no texts are offered, here or online. This is presumably because of copyright problems, but it does detract from the listener’s enjoyment. Since the Marco Polo issue, the plot of La Pentola has been unearthed and is given in summary in Ian Lace’s review of the CPO version, but the Naxos notes still refer to it as lost. 

If you are starting a Respighi collection on CD, I wouldn’t begin with this new reissue. Naxos also have recommendable versions of the three Roman tone poems (8.553207) and of Church Windows with Brazilian Impressions and Rossiniana (8.557711 – see review and review) – no need to pay more for any of these, unless it be for the mid-price Gatti (RCA 82876 60869 2 – see review) or you demand the extra work, the beautiful Il Tramonto, on Pappano’s full price version (EMI 3 94429 2, a Recording of the Year – see review). Then you’ll probably want La boutique (go for the Chandos listed above), Ancient Airs and Dances (Philharmonia Hungarica/Doráti, Mercury SACD 470 637-2), The Birds and the Boticelli Pictures (both on Chandos CHAN8913, conducted by Vasary) ahead of the present CD. 

I was surprised how few versions of La boutique fantasque there currently are – surely Australian Eloquence must have it in mind to reissue the Solti version, once available as the fourth-side filler for Ansermet’s Nutcracker. How about reissuing that Nutcracker, too? – at the moment, there’s no complete Eloquence version. 

If you already have a basic Respighi collection, go ahead and buy the new reissue with confidence.

Brian Wilson

see also Review by William Kreindler


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