Admirers of Respighi’s music may well be interested in music from
other less well known Italian non-operatic composers. The now
defunct recording company, ASV, built up something of a reputation
for their recordings of music in this field. I was particularly
impressed with their recordings of works by Martucci. In fact
I remember writing in 1997: "I was 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 (the last movement sounding uncannily
like an Italian Elgar in full P&C flow) I hastened to acquire
all the ASV Martucci CDs. Symphonies 1 and 2, with shorter orchestral
items including Notturno, Andante and Colore orientale
were issued on ASV CDDCA675 and 689 respectively, while Piano
Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 - the former with the glorious La
canzone del ricordi – were released on ASV CDDCA 690 and
Martucci, the foremost Italian orchestral composer of the late 19th
century was also an accomplished pianist and conductor. His
repertoire was wide extending from Bach through to Debussy and
Stanford. He championed Wagner, Berlioz, Schumann and Brahms,
the latter two composers having a strong influence on Martucci’s
own music, and notably this Symphony with something of Bruckner
and Elgar in the heroic final Mosso-Allegro risoluto.
He worked six years on this Symphony which was premiered in
1895. This new recording has its moments – a perky characterful
Allegretto and an appealing reading of the lovely wistful
Andante second movement – but, overall, it does not eclipse
the D’Avalos recording with the Philharmonia. That reading has
so much more vitality and polish especially in the outer movements.
The ASV sound is superior too.
La Vecchia scores in the lighter fill-ups. The Giga trips along
merrily while the wistful, beguiling Canzonetta looks
back to the elegance of the 18th century. The twelve-minute
or so Andante No. 2 for Cello and Orchestra meanders
but has autumnal warmth - a little like the Elgar Cello Concerto
in places - with some felicitous writing for woodwinds and harp.
The First Notturno is more pleasing and again reminds
one of Elgar in wistful vein.
As a bargain introduction to Martucci this is acceptable but it is
worth seeking out the D’Avalos recordings.
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.