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Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)
La Primavera (Spring) for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1922) [44:46]
Richaard Haan (baritone); Miroslav Dvorský (tenor); Jana Valásková (soprano); Vladimir Kubovčik (bass); Henrietta Lednárová (soprano); Beata Geriová (mezzo); Vera Raskova (solo flute)
Slovak Philharmonic Chorus/Blanka Juhanáková
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Adriano
Quattro Liriche su poesie popolari armene (1921) [9:11]
Denisa Šlepovská (mezzo); Vladimír Havran (flute); Michal Sintál (oboe); Gabriel Konćer (clarinet); Ivan Viskup (bass-clarinet); Ivan Paulićka (bassoon); František Kovács (trombone); Katarína Vavreková (harp)
La Pentola Magica (The Magic Pot) - Ballet (1919) [25:23]
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Adriano
rec. 4-9 November 1991, Concert Hall of Slovak Radio, Bratislava (La Pentola Magica); 4-9 January, 19 February, 6 June 1994, Concert Hall of Slovak Radio, Bratislava (La Primavera, Quattro Liriche). DDD
Notes but no text
NAXOS 8.570741 [79:20]
Experience Classicsonline

This disc is a conflation of music from two Marco Polo discs from the 1990s (see review). It might also be called the Respighi Armenian album since both La Primavera and the Quattro Liricche have texts by Armenian poets. Even The Magic Pot has an Armenian Dance. But its prime importance is that the two vocal works are both among the composer’s most interesting and at the same time least typical.
The Magic Pot is one of several pastiche-ballets that Respighi wrote for Diaghilev, usually orchestrating already existing music by other composers. In this case there are ten numbers, one each by Gretchaninoff, Arensky, Pachulsky, Rubinstein and Rebikov. Five are by Respighi himself and they blend well with the Slavic numbers. The scenario for the ballet has been lost. While enjoyable I must say that this has never been one of my favorite pieces by Respighi. On the other hand I do find Adriano’s rendition a bit more exciting than that of Noseda on Chandos (see review).
Far more interesting are the Four Songs on Armenian Popular Poetry. Three of the texts are by the writer Constant Zarian and the last by the hymn-writer Nerses Shenorhali. They were written for Madama Respighi to sing in recitals accompanied by the composer and indeed they recorded a couple of them. Adriano added an instrumental accompaniment with the permission of the composer’s wife. The original version has also been recorded on Channel Classics (see review).The first is sad, with a mixolydian mode underpinning things while the second is slightly Mahlerian. Io sono la Madre is quite despairing, again with a modal influence. The last is prayerful and demonstrates a sincerity one does not always find in Respighi. All of them sound true to their Armenian roots without in the least being artificial.
Even better is the “Lyric Poem” for soloists, chorus and orchestra, La Primavera (Spring). This is in seven more or less continuous sections, again to words by Zarian. Respighi wrote it while courting his future wife. It is suffused with both passion and original Armenian feeling; again, without artificiality. The work begins with an incantation to Spring by The Praying One (baritone), which has an orchestral prelude that outdoes even the “Roman” tone poems. The Praying One, accompanied by the other voices continues to summon nature in the second section, which has an excellent use of the male chorus. This is contrasted in the third section by the music of The Young Man, at first mysterious, then passionate as he remembers his feelings when beholding the maiden Sirvard. Perhaps the best section is the fourth in which the young and old men sing of their contrasting feelings when contemplating spring. The opening of the fifth section, for the young women, has some very interesting part-writing and leads into the music for Sirvard, with fascinating writing for the several keyboard instruments. The sixth section is the inevitable meeting of The Young Man and Sirvard, leading to a love-duet. The last section is a general “Hymn to Spring” that must be one of the composer’s more accomplished creations. In all, a work that should be among Respighi’s best known.
As mentioned above Adriano’s version of The Magic Pot is more exciting than the competition, although the recording is older. In the Quattro liriche Šlepovská is very good and the ensemble backs her up well, although the sound is slightly dead. In La Primavera Richard Haan really stands out. Dvorský is also good, but I found Valásková somewhat pallid. The sound for individual instruments is good, but sometimes the ensemble is not all it could be. However, this is the only recording available of this major work and that should be the primary consideration.
William Kreindler


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