Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Works for Piano and Orchestra
Toccata for Piano and Orchestra (1928) [27:09]
Concerto in modo misolidio (1925) [41:29]
Sandro Ivo Bartoli (piano)
Staatsorchester der Sächsische Landesbühnen/Michele Carulli
rec. no date given, Kammermusiksaal der Hochschule für Musik Carl-Maria von Weber, Dresden. DDD

Think of this disc as Respighi's piano concertos excluding the early Concerto in A minor (recorded by Chandos) and the Fantasia Slava.

OK so the title Toccata does not lead us to expect a grand concerto but that is what we get. This beefy three movement work is strong on clamorous rhetoric in the outward facing parts but has a place for delicious quiet and contemplation in the centrepiece (4:27). If you have heard Respighi's orchestrations of Bach organ works and liked them then you will be at home with the Toccata. In the first and third movements the invention mediates between Rachmaninov's grandiloquence and Bachian rectitude. There are some flighty forays across the heavens too. The finale is more playful and once bows in the direction of Wagner. The Toccata was premiered in 1928 in the Carnegie Hall by Mengelberg with the NYPO and the composer at the piano just as was the Misolidio three years before.

The Concerto in Modo Misolidio is in the line of plainchant-influenced works that also includes the Concerto Gregoriano (1921) the Quartetto Dorico (1924) and the piano solo Tre preludi sopra melodie Gregoriano (1920). The composer had married Elsa Olivieri Sangiacomo in 1919. She was herself something of an authority on plainchant. The pearly chimes and charms of the Misolidio marry a Rachmaninovian pesante quality with the same suffocating drapes of plainchant to be heard at times in the Roman poems and in Vetrate di Chiesa. Bartoli and Carulli pull no punches and much of this is on the grandest scale without evicting prayerful intimacy.

Here is a chance to acquire - at minimum outlay - Respighi's two mature works for piano and orchestra. Not to be missed if you have a place in your heart for heroic piano concertos of a Rachmaninovian caste matched up with Respighi's gloriously overblown bombast and zest. The notes are by the pianist.

Rob Barnett

Heroic and of a Rachmaininovian caste matched with zesty bombast.