Naxos reach the fourth volume in their reissue of the symphonies
of Gian Francesco Malipiero, originally released on Marco Polo.
Malipiero wrote seventeen works titled ‘sinfonia’ and
while he showed little interest in the formal and tonal structure
of the standard symphony or in development or variation, these
works cohere due to stylistic consistency and motoric energy.
His style also relies heavily, at least in the earlier works,
on song and diatonicism. Later, his music become much more
craggy and dissonant, as can be heard on this disc.
Malipiero began his symphony No. 7 a few years after completing
his monumental edition of the works of Monteverdi. On the surface
the symphony adheres more closely to the standard format than
most of the composer’s works. The first movement begins
genially, followed by a pastoral section. This alternates with
a slightly more dissonant section before the opening material
returns followed by an abrupt end. The second movement has
a noble first theme, which alternates with a Gregorian chant-like
episode. This is music of great eloquence. The scherzo is quite
serious, but less distinguished than the first two movements.
The final lento is also somber, with much use of solo strings.
Eventually the mood becomes wistful - with excellent use of
As the movement proceeds to its end these moods coalesce with
evocations of music from the earlier movements, before an intense
coda. Malipiero admitted that the title was really an afterthought.
Written two years after the Symphony No.7 the Sinfonia in
un tempo appears to be a major structural departure - a one
movement symphonic poem. But actually the four movements of a
regular symphony are there under the surface. What is new is
that the work includes many sections of chromaticism and dissonance-features
that would come increasingly to dominate the symphonies from
this point. The first movement is quite introverted, but with
the opening material appearing more and more frenzied on each
appearance especially in the woodwinds. The slow section has
an impressive use of strings and sounds more like the earlier
Malipiero, with many noble moments, but the threatening dissonances
are never far away. The scherzo is a pretty traditional one,
though a little slow and with a disturbing trio. The last section
has reminiscences of the three previous sections as well as some
beautiful pastoral music based on the opening theme. This leads
to the end of the piece.
Antigenda was a Theban piffaro player who represented
for Malipiero the importance of writing for oneself and not for
the populace. This short symphony was written a good deal after
the other two. The opening movement is very craggy with the piccolo
prominent and supported by striding basses, which alternate with
brass chords and a trumpet line above. One is reminded a little
of Havergal Brian, another iconoclast. By contrast the lento
starts with a long string line, again accompanied by brass. This
becomes increasingly tragic before giving way to more animated
music from the piccolo and woodwinds. The scherzo is another
contrast, becoming steadily more dissonant, but with a piccolo
interlude. The last movement is also a lento, starting with a
noble theme on woodwinds, which alternates with appearances by
the piccolo before the woodwinds end the symphony.
Antonio de Almeida made the Malipiero symphonies his own by his
great efforts for this composer and it is difficult to imagine
purchasing other versions - not that there are so many. The early
1990s sound on these discs is still serviceable, although somewhat
colorless. However, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra deserves praise
especially for their wind playing, very important in Malipiero
and for their ability to produce an idiomatic Italian sound.
Overall, a fine selection.
see also review by Gary