Ermanno WOLF-FERRARI (1876-1948)
Idillio-concertino in A major for oboe and small orchestra Op. 15 (1932) [23:16]
Concertino in A flat major for cor anglais and small orchestra Op. 34 [28:50]
Suite-concertino in F major for bassoon and small orchestra Op. 16 [25:27]
Andrea Tenaglia (oboe); Willian Moriconi (cor anglais); Giuseppe Ciabocchi (bassoon)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma/Francesco La Vecchia
rec. ORS Studio, Rome, 24-27 June 2009
NAXOS 8.572921 [77:32]
I must admit that brief excerpts from The Jewels of the Madonna and Susanna’s Secret are the only pieces I have ever come across by Wolf-Ferrari. From these previous experiences I expected frothy and tuneful and that’s exactly what this new CD offers. There are, apparently, two other recordings of these concertinos currently available. I have no idea how good they are but I can’t imagine they could be much better than this Naxos offering either musically or technically.
The music is all very charming and tuneful, almost what you could put into the category of light music/easy listening but that’s meant as a compliment not as a criticism. So what does it actually sound like? A number of thoughts came to mind when listening to these concertinos for the first time. The oboe and cor anglais works are like romantic 20th Century homages to their baroque counterparts. Is this what Albinoni and Cimarosa would have written in another era? The Concertino for bassoon is somewhat more contemplative and doleful but this style fits the instrument perfectly and the work still has its jolly moments. In all three pieces there are also patches where the Respighi of Ancient Airs and Dances and the Stravinsky of Pulcinella creep in. Putting these passing allusions to one side the overriding conclusion is that what we have here - a guilty pleasure of a CD if ever there was one - is a disc containing well-crafted music with underlying elegiac, wistful feelings in the slow movements and a Rossini-like sparkle in the faster passages. Many of the romantic melodies clearly come from a composer with his roots in the opera house. The tunes given to the wind soloists could easily have been penned with operatic tenors in mind. Wolf-Ferrari doesn’t seem to think much of minor keys, either! It’s very infectious and cheerful and I’m pleased to have discovered it.
The performances are first class and the orchestra plays with great spirit. What they are given to do isn’t especially challenging or original. It is, however, very lush and enticing to listen to and conductor Francesco La Vecchia provides fine support for his soloists, all of whom are members of his most accomplished Rome orchestra. The recording quality is natural and warm with soloists set forward. The solo playing is excellent and the close-up placement can be justified in that the solo lines are allowed to dominate proceedings without masking the orchestral detail.
To sum up, this is 77 minutes of sheer joy. There’s nothing taxing or particularly original on offer but you can’t help but smile when you listen to it. Give it a try.
John Whitmore 

77 minutes of sheer joy. You can’t help but smile so give it a try. 

see also review by John Sheppard