Gian Francesco MALIPIERO (1883-1973)
The Symphonies - Volume 3
Symphony No.6 degli archi (1947) [22:40]
Symphony No.5 concertante in eco (1947) [16:36]
Symphony No.8 Symphonia brevis (1964) [22:36]
Symphony No.11 delle cornamuse (1969) [11:59]
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Antonio de Almeida
rec. February 1994, Mosfilm Studio, Moscow
NAXOS 8.570880 [73:51]

Review of volume 1

Sharp-eyed readers will recognise this as ex-Marco Polo 8.223696. Recorded in Moscow in 1994 and released soon afterwards, this Naxos re-release is part of the symphonic cycle which has been published in single volumes. Volume 3 covers four symphonies: 5, 6, 8 and 11, which were written over a period of twenty-two years.

The most immediately attractive of the quartet is the Sixth, which is possibly why it’s programmed first. It was written in the same year as No.5 - in 1947 - and makes an immediate impact by virtue of its concertante element, its contrapuntal, Tippett-reminiscent lines - clear, bright, tangy. There’s a most expressive slow movement and a sinewy, brisk, almost brusquely neo-classical Scherzo with plenty of inviting dissonances. Its finale is long, multi-sectional, alternating fast with slow paragraphs, and including a fugal section as well. It ends quietly.

The Fifth represents another side of Malipiero’s muse; argumentative, aggressively orchestrated, and spiced by two pianos in its fabric. This violence is predicated however on arresting writing which, whilst it’s hardly ingratiating, is certainly well conceived and implacably direct. Things grow more pliant in the slow movement where the piano textures summon up reminiscences perhaps of his pre-War writing, but this merely prefigures the militaristic drum tattoos and fife elements that animate the scherzo. Throughout the finale solemn brass make their noble plea - before the re-appearance of the liberating pianos. This is a tough, unstable, rewarding work.

The Symphonia brevis is just as long as the Sixth and considerably longer than the Fifth, so it wears its title with a certain irony. This Eighth Symphony was written in 1964. For all the terse and kinetic moments here - the latter come in the second movement - the schema is more diverting. A normal sized Malipiero opening is followed by that very tense and brisk central one. The long finale is twice as extended as both these opening movements put together. It’s essentially contemplative, despite an agitato section of some vehemence. There is orchestral colour here but it has become rather diffuse. The thematic material itself is not especially distinctive. It’s more the play of texture.

By the time we reach the compact Eleventh Symphony of 1969 we arrive at the aloof late Malipiero: terse, uneasy, full of busy scurrying writing but overall a sense of being directionless. The journey from 6 to 11 is one of spring to winter.

The performances are laudably direct and animated, and Antonio de Almeida had the whole corpus of the symphonies under his control, as he showed throughout the cycle.

Jonathan Woolf