This is the fifth and last volume of the Marco Polo Malipiero
symphonic cycle to migrate to Naxos. The relevant disc number
was Marco Polo 8.223697. It was recorded in Moscow in 1993 and
presents the superstitiously unnumbered Sinfonia dello zodiaco
of 1951 and the Ninth and Tenth which followed in 1967-68.
The Sinfonia dello zodiaco has a very unusual
shape. It’s divided into four Partitas, each seasonal (Spring,
Summer, Autumn, Winter) which are themselves subdivided into
three movements, making twelve movements in total. This ‘Four
Seasons’ schema has a smattering of Beethovenian pastoralism
and a heap of neo-classical authority. Winds are springy, and
the finale of the Spring movement sports a deliciously and lightly
orchestrated string/wind dialogue. The opening of Autumn oscillates
between lissom lightness and strong, sinewy athleticism, but
staunch march themes are never far away either. You can sample
one such in the finale of this Partita, one that ends, in a
very Malipiero way, definitely ‘in the air’ – the composer being
perhaps over-fond of this disjunctive, irresolute procedure.
Some of the wind writing is definably French – try that enshrined
in the opening of Winter. It ends in an agitato movement,
string and brass-led, rather brusque, and once again ending
The Ninth Symphony is cast, by contrast, in three compact
movements lasting roughly a quarter of an hour, unlike the earlier
symphony which lasted forty-two minutes in this Moscow performance.
There is a piano in the orchestral patina, but there’s also
a sense of terse concision too, an unswerving, almost declamatory
directness. The sense of urgency increases as the work develops;
the orchestration is precise, no-nonsense, with no extraneous
colours. This symphony too ends with a trademark question mark.
The Tenth sports a subtitle that refers to one of the
Fates in Classical Mythology, Atropo, one who cuts the thread
of life. The work was dedicated to the memory of the conductor
Hermann Scherchen, a good friend of the composer, who collapsed
and died just after having conducted Malipiero’s L’Ofreide.
It’s a disquieting work of strange conjunctions and disjunctions
and terse to the point of brooding intensity.
The late Antonio de Almeida directed the performances here a
few years before his death in 1997. Their directness and control
are impressive. The symphonies are rather heterogeneous, and
make for contrastive listening; the long 1951 work followed
by the terse works from the mid 1960s.
See also review by Mark