Eine Lustspielouvertüre, Op 38 [7:05]
Gesang vom Reigen der Geister, Op 47 [7:39]
Rondò arlecchinesco, Op 46 [12:58]
Clarinet Concertino in B flat, Op 48 [11:59]
Flute Divertimento, Op 52 [8:55]
Tanzwalzer, Op 53 [12:00]
Giammarco Casani, clarinet (concertino); Laura Minguzzi, flute (divertimento);
Gianluca Terranova (tenor) (rondò)
Rome Symphony Orchestra/Francesco La Vecchia
rec. 7-8 December 2008 (Opp 38, 46) and 27-28 March 2011 (Opp 48,
52), Auditorium Conciliazione; 13-17 May 2011, ORS Studios (Opp
47, 53), Rome, Italy
NAXOS 8.572922 [60:34]
Here’s an album to correct misconceptions. I always thought
of Ferruccio Busoni as a very serious, somewhat dour composer,
maybe because he lavished so much time on transcriptions and
arrangements of Bach, and maybe because on top of that his most
performed original works are the Berceuse elégiaque,
the Fantasia contrappuntistica, and the massive hour-long
Piano Concerto. My mistake! This is the lighter, wittier
side of Busoni, and it is a truly delightful CD.
Proceedings begin with the Lustspielouvertüre, a
seven-minute piece that’s as effective and fizzy a show-opener
as the pop of a champagne cork. The tunes are memorable, the
sudden turn to minor key in the middle is a stroke of dexterity,
and the concluding reprise is a delight. It’s a simply
fantastic little piece, which in style pays homage to the Mozartian
era but in orchestration is very much a high-romantic showcase.
It might be the highlight of the CD.
Next up is the Gesang vom Reigen der Geister (Song of
the Dance of the Spirits), a rather spooky Native-American-inspired
piece with an especially enigmatic beginning. The Rondò
arlecchinesco which follows can be described with no other
word but “mad”: there are zany twists and turns
of spirit, odd martial elements, and then everything’s
capped off by a wacky vocalise from a tenor. I have absolutely
no idea what Busoni was thinking when he wrote it, but it must
be one of the all-time masterpieces of attention-deficit looniness.
The next two pieces are for solo winds and orchestra: a clarinet
concertino and a flute divertimento. The clarinet soloist enters
immediately with a pastoral theme which occupies the players
for four well-developed minutes. Then a horn solo kicks off
a slower episode which gradually builds in action and liveliness
until the ending, which reminds us of Busoni’s love for
the classical era. The flute divertimento has a deceptive orchestral
introduction which features significant orchestral solos for
all the other winds plus trumpet, until the flautist finally
enters at 1:32. From then on it’s a charmer with vigor
and a mostly quick pulse, the flute dancing about the orchestral
accompaniment. Both Giammarco Casani on clarinet and Laura Minguzzi
on flute do the music full justice, although the incredibly
close miking gives us an ear to all their instruments’
clicks and makes Casani’s tone sound a little more shrill
than it probably is.
The CD ends with the Tanzwalzer, for which I can think
of no better description than “Ravel’s La valse
without the irony.” The glitz, glamour, orchestral heft,
and high spirits are all there, but not the undercurrent of
savagery, nor the shock ending. Busoni’s homage is obviously
more loyal; indeed the work is dedicated “to the memory
of Johann Strauss.” That said, it still encapsulates the
wit, free spirit, and orchestral brilliance that runs through
this whole disc.
To sum up: all immensely attractive music, running from an overture
that deserves to be a pops and radio megahit through a truly
nonsensical rondo to two wonderful mini-concertos. Nothing here
is very serious at heart, but it’s all astonishingly well-done.
Aside from Martucci’sTarantella
and a few bits of Casella, this is my favorite discovery so
far in Naxos’ Italian Classics series; the woodwind soloists
are closely spotlit and the sound is a bit crude but suits the
music’s vivaciousness. The Rome Symphony and Francesco
La Vecchia give high-spirited performances which are very confident
indeed, and a booklet note is highly informative, although the
descriptions of the music leave little to the imagination. An
early-1990s CPO album is more or less the only competition.
In summary: wonderful.
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