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Giuseppe MARTUCCI (1856-1909) 
Symphony No. 2 in F major (1904) [45:02]
Theme and Variations (arr. piano and orchestra) (1882?) [14:25]
Gavotta No. 2 (arr. orchestra) (1901) [4:13]
Tarantella No. 6 (arr. orchestra(1908) [6:05]
Lya De Barberiis (piano)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma/Francesco La Vecchia
rec. Auditorium, Conciliazione-Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma Studios, 16–20 October 2007, 4 March, 4-5 April 2008. DDD
NAXOS 8.570930 [69:44] 
Experience Classicsonline

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. 

Martucci 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. 

The 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. 

The 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 recording.
Ian Lace

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. RB.


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