This is a reissue of one-and-a-half Marco Polo recordings. La
Primavera and Quattro liriche are taken from 8.223595
and La pentola magica from 8.223346, both listed in MusicWeb’s
list of recommended
Respighi recordings, to which the reissue should now be added.
Both Marco Polos are still listed at full price in the Naxos catalogue,
though I can’t see why anyone would wish to pay full price for
the first of these when the reissue offers more music for a smaller
price, unless it be for the more eye-catching Marco Polo cover.
Prospective purchasers should be aware that this
is not the Technicolor Respighi of the Fountains and
Pines of Rome and Feste Romane, or the pastiche
Respighi of La Boutique fantasque (Rossini), Ancient
Airs and Dances, The Birds (both from Renaissance
and Baroque composers), Concerto Gregoriano, Concerto
in modo misolidio, or Trittico Botticelliano (Gregorian
chant), though parts of it come close to the last-named, in
that both La Primavera and Quattro liriche set
words by Armenian poets and the liriche employ Armenian
In fact, the listener is hardly likely to recognise
those Armenian themes – I, for one, didn’t; I found the work
somewhat ‘folksy’ and reminiscent of Canteloube’s Chants
d’Auvergne. If you enjoy the Canteloube – of which, incidentally,
there are very good Naxos recordings with Véronique Gens on
8.557491 – see review
– and 8.570338 – see review
– you should enjoy the Quattro liriche. Denisa Šlepkovská
is slightly plummy in places, but not so much as to spoil my
enjoyment – it’s the kind of mild plumminess that I almost wrote
‘is almost endemic to mezzos’, except that I’ve just been listening
again to Janet Baker’s wonderfully plum-free Nuits d’Été.
La Primavera, too, is an attractive work, with some
Technicolor moments reminiscent of Pines of Rome and
film music in general; though it slightly outstays its welcome
at almost 45 minutes, the final Inno di Primavera or
Hymn of Spring, makes up for any small longueurs which may have
preceded it. If you want to sample this work, try the Inno
on track 7 or I desideri del giovane, the Desires of
Youth (track 3), with its engaging flute solo, ably performed
by Vera Rasková. All the soloists in this cantata are capable,
though none of them is exactly outstanding. Miroslav Dvorský
as the voice of the young man, sounds a little strained on his
highest notes, but I wouldn’t want to make this a major criticism;
elsewhere his voice is quite resplendent, especially on track
La pentola magica was designed as a pastiche
ballet but it is more the case that Respighi here imitates some
upper-second-league Russian composers (Arensky) than that he
borrows from them. Though lacking the immediate attraction of
La boutique fantasque, the music is attractive enough
and the performance is more than adequate. The young treble
Jakub Francisi makes a real impression with his brief ethereal
appearance in the Canzone armene (track13). This performance
remains available on Marco Polo, coupled with Le astuzie
di Colombina, which I trust that Naxos will now also reissue
on a more generously filled CD, as they have done here.
My only real reservation about recommending this
version of la Pentola stems from the fact that a very good
account of it comes coupled with La boutique fantasque
on Chandos CHAN10081 (BBCPO/Noseda – see review).
There is also a version on CPO with la Sensitiva and Aretusa
which Ian Lace recommended to Rossini enthusiasts (CPO770 071-2
– see review).
Everything on this reissue is more than acceptably
performed and recorded. The notes, by conductor Adriano, edited
by Keith Anderson, are excellent. They include detailed summaries
of the first two works, especially La Primavera but no
texts are offered, here or online. This is presumably because
of copyright problems, but it does detract from the listener’s
enjoyment. Since the Marco Polo issue, the plot of La Pentola
has been unearthed and is given in summary in Ian Lace’s review
of the CPO version, but the Naxos
notes still refer to it as lost.
If you are starting a Respighi collection on CD,
I wouldn’t begin with this new reissue. Naxos also have recommendable
versions of the three Roman tone poems (8.553207) and of Church
Windows with Brazilian Impressions and Rossiniana
(8.557711 – see review
– no need to pay more for any of these, unless it be for the mid-price
Gatti (RCA 82876 60869 2 – see review)
or you demand the extra work, the beautiful Il Tramonto,
on Pappano’s full price version (EMI 3 94429 2, a Recording of
the Year – see review).
Then you’ll probably want La boutique (go for the Chandos
listed above), Ancient Airs and Dances (Philharmonia Hungarica/Doráti,
Mercury SACD 470 637-2), The Birds and the Boticelli
Pictures (both on Chandos CHAN8913, conducted by Vasary) ahead
of the present CD.
I was surprised how few versions of La boutique
fantasque there currently are – surely Australian Eloquence
must have it in mind to reissue the Solti version, once available
as the fourth-side filler for Ansermet’s Nutcracker.
How about reissuing that Nutcracker, too? – at the moment,
there’s no complete Eloquence version.
If you already have a basic Respighi collection,
go ahead and buy the new reissue with confidence.
by William Kreindler