Gian Francesco MALIPIERO (1883-1973)
The Symphonies-Vol. 4
Symphony No. 7 “delle canzoni” (1948) [23:29]
Sinfonia in un tempo (1950)) [27:07]
Sinfonia per Antigenda (1962) [17:55]
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Antonio de Almeida
rec. May and June 1993, Mosfilm Studio, Moscow. DDD
Previously released as Marco Polo 8.223604
NAXOS 8.570881 [68:41]

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 woodwinds. 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.

William Kreindler 

see also review by Gary Higginson