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Ermanno WOLF-FERRARI (1876-1948)
Orchestral Works: Suite from the opera ‘I gioielli della Madonna’ (1911) [16:48]; Prelude and Intermezzo from ‘I quattro rusteghi’ (1906) [5:31]; Suite-Concertino in F major Op. 16 for bassoon and orchestra (1932) [21:56]; Overture and Intermezzo from ‘Il segreto di Susanna’ (1909) [6:25]; Overture and Intermezzo from ‘L’amore medico’ (1939) [13:32]; Intermezzo and Ritornello from ‘Il campiello’ (1936) [5:54]; Overture from ‘La dama boba’ (1939) [8:19]
Karen Geoghegan (bassoon)
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda
rec. 5-6 August 2008, Studio 7, BBC Broadcasting House, Manchester. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10511 [79:28] 


Experience Classicsonline

Wolf-Ferrari spun luxuriant lyricism
throughout his Italo-German musical career and seldom more so than in his operas. The overtures and entr’actes must, by and large, stand in for the works from which they have been extracted, since opportunities to hear such as I gioielli della Madonna and Il segreto di Susanna do not come along with exactly the punctuality of Puccini. This is a pity, and a loss, but record companies can’t be blamed for the timidity of opera houses and launching studio operatic recordings is now, in any case, very much a thing of the past. And if the operas aren’t performed then live performances can’t be recorded either. It’s a cleft stick all round.

So the next best thing is to present choice and characteristic extracts, as here. They’re performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under Gianandrea Noseda and were taped in September 2008. The sound quality is as generous as ever from the Chandos team though a touch too much so at times, and it can diffuse things just a little. A very minor point however. 

The programme opens in what one would have called, in days gone by, capital fashion. This is the Festa popolare from as I gioielli della Madonna, a vital, terpsichorean Tarantella of irresistible brio. The ensuing Intermezzo from the operatic suite is a Mascagni-light effusion, warmly detailed, and that in turn is followed by a sprightly Serenata. The suite is rounded off by a Danza napolitana, rich in verismo excitement. This is certainly the right place to start – it embodies a charming vitality, and alerts one – practised admirer of the composer or neophyte – just how luscious his melodies are. The Prelude and Intermezzo from I quattro rusteghi evince refined rococo charm – a little like harmonically up dated Grétry perhaps with a wash of Watteau elegance.

Noseda pushes the Overture from Il segreto di Susanna quite hard, though its bustling Mozartian character emerges unscathed. In the Intermezzo we have the advantage of clarinettist John Bradbury’s typically eloquent legato. The corresponding movements from L’amore medico, a much later work dating from 1939, are orchestrally heavier though the Intermezzo is a charmer and cellist Peter Dixon takes some solo honours. The Intermezzo and Ritornello from Il campiello – a work written in 1936 – wouldn’t have been so out of scale in Cav or Pag, where Wolf-Ferrari manges subtly to vest the music with little verismo piquancies and gestures. It’s the kind of thing that makes one yearn for a Schipa or a Gigli.

The operatic extracts are interrupted mid-programme by the lovely Suite-Concertino in F major for bassoon and orchestra. Karen Geoghegan plays this deliciously, with real control and command and tonal variety. My reservation concerns the first movement, which I find simply too slow. I greatly prefer the more athletic tempo canvassed by Luc Loubry and conductor Hans Rotman in their performance on Talent SACD DOM 2929 90, which gives a more tight construction on things here. 

Gerald Larner’s notes are however first class and seal an enjoyable and engaging voyage through some genial effusions. 

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Carla Rees 

Karen Geoghegan plays Bassoon Concertos

Karen Geoghegan interviewed by Carla Rees



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