The Naxos Italian Classics series has produced some fine discs.
These include top-notch versions of Alfredo Casella’s
symphonies with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma under Francesco
La Vecchia. That revival of interest will surely extend to the
works of Malipiero, a contemporary of Casella’s and also
a founder member of the Corporazione delle Nuove Musiche. The
disc under review is not new - it was issued on the now defunct
Marco Polo label in the late-1990s - and the music is hardly
core repertoire. All the more surprising, as the pieces recorded
here are really rather good. Not only that, the playing of the
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana is very idiomatic, too.
The three fragments from Malipiero’s opera Tre commedie
goldoniane have an open-faced, genial air; La bottega
da caffè is a perky little number, underpinned by
some delightful, burbling rhythms, the out-of-sorts Sior
Todero characterised by low, rather comical brass. As vignettes
go, these are lightly drawn, and all credit to conductor Christian
Benda for bringing out the many subtleties of colour and rhythm.
The latter is a key element here, the molto perpetuo
of La baruffe chiozzotte discreetly done. It’s
an odd blend of chamber-like scoring and gaudy effects - the
bells for instance - but it hangs together well and never outstays
its welcome. Most entertaining.
The short, post-war ballet Stradivario, centred on a
stolen Strad that comes to life and dances with a variety of
other instruments, is surprisingly light on its feet. Violinist
Tamas Major is a little thin-sounding as the protagonist, but
it’s the boisterous bass drum - well caught - that threatens
to steal the show. There’s plenty of dynamic range here;
the orchestra is convincingly balanced, woodwind solos rise
naturally from the mix and the brass are thrilling in their
brisk, repeated figures. There’s an abiding sense of fun
in this music, epitomised by the smile-inducing march for flutes
and drums. A real tonic, this.
Malipiero’s interest in Italian composers of the 16th,
17th and 18th centuries dates back to
his youth, where he spent hours copying the music of Monteverdi
and other early masters. This fascination, shared by his compatriots
Casella and Respighi, is most evident in La Cimarosiana,
inspired by the music of Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801).But
it’s not just a fastidious, dry little exercise in retro-writing;
for instance, sandwiched between the elegant Andante grazioso
and Non troppo mosso is an uncouth, streetwise Allegro
moderato that’s both bizarre and entirely in keeping
with Malipero’s well-developed sense of mischief and whimsy.
Make no mistake though, the period features are skilfully done
and the music is very well played; the limpid Larghetto
is especially attractive.
As a Venetian himself, Malipiero would have had a special affection
for the music of Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1554/57-1612),
whose distinctive style is joyfully conveyed in the bracing
Gabrieliana. The up-front OSI brass are very bright indeed
- brazen, even - which seems entirely appropriate in this context.
That said, it’s all a tad fatiguing at times. Not as relaxed
and congenial as the other items, perhaps, but it does reveal
a more studied, serious aspect of the composer’s musical
This is a most rewarding reissue, and a tantalising glimpse
into Malipiero’s endearing sound-world. There are several
discs in this series - some of the symphonies have already been
reviewed on these pages - so if this collection piques your
interest don’t hesitate to give them a try.
Review of other Malipiero releases on Naxos
8.570878 - Symphonies Vol. 1
- Symphonies Vol. 3
- Symphonies Vol. 4
- Symphonies Vol. 5