This is the second release in the new Naxos Martucci ‘Complete
Orchestral Music’ series. I wrote in the preface to my review
of the first album that I had been ‘overwhelmed by the intensely
dramatic and highly colourful music of Martucci, after listening
to D’Avalos and the Philharmonia’s dazzling reading of Martucci’s
Symphony No.1 on ASV CDDCA675. I had hastened to acquire all the
other ASV Martucci recordings’ made mainly in 1989/90. Alas ASV
as a recording label is now defunct and I suspect it may now be
very difficult to get hold of those marvellous recordings. It’s
a great pity because I cannot honestly say that the new Naxos releases, so far, are their equal.
was the foremost Italian orchestral composer of the late 19th
century. He was also an accomplished pianist and conductor.
His style was that of Northern Europe rather than Italy. His repertoire was wide, extending
from Bach through to Debussy and Stanford. He championed Wagner,
Berlioz, Schumann and Brahms.
composition of this Second Symphony (1904) occupied Martucci
for over five years and it is claimed to be his masterpiece.
The influence of Brahms and Schumann is apparent. The substantial
opening movement, some 16 minutes long, marked Allegro
moderato has a character that is chivalric with heroic
fanfares, contrasted with more relaxed material of pastoral
lyricism. La Vecchia’s reading has good forward impetus but
D’Avalos on ASV had more polish and the sound was superior.
D’Avalos’s Scherzo has lightness and grace; La Vecchia
is heavy-handed in comparison. La Vecchia’s Brahmsian Adagio
third movement fares better but again D’Avalos’s reading has
more heart. Listen for instance to how his clarinet sings so
much more tenderly. La Vecchia is more satisfying in the Allegro
finale which has some interesting contrapuntal writing and a
most weird and eccentric coda that is almost malign.
most substantial of the three fillers is the 14½-minute Theme
and Variations, only recently published. Besides his two
concertos, this is Martucci’s only work for piano and orchestra.
It was originally written for solo piano in 1882. It is an amiable
but rather slight work. Its rather weak theme is announced by
the orchestra in the slow introduction and the variations are
announced as lively, restless, spirited, wistful and piquant.
It has to be said that nothing registers very much in the memory
except the Finale, Allegro molto e con fuoco that displays
some animated discussion between soloist and orchestra. The
Gavotta No. 2 is brighter, the strutting outer parts
framing a mild avuncular pastoral scene. The concluding Tarantella
No. 6 is a noisy, colourful, hedonistic riot.
Repeating my comments
at the end of my review of Volume 1 in this series, as a bargain
introduction to Martucci this can be mildly recommended but it
is worth the trouble to seek out the 20-year oldish D’Avalos ASV
Editor's note: Martucci ASV recordings reissued on Brilliant Classics
Ian and his readers can rejoice. All four ASV
Martucci/D'Avalos discs have been reissued in a single superbudget
Brilliant Classics box. That means you can get both symphonies,
both piano concertos and much else on Brilliant Classics 93439.