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]
 
Wolf-Ferrari was the son of a German father and an Italian mother. He decided to retain both of their names, presumably to extend his career options on either side of the Alps. Born in Venice, he studied in Italy and later in Munich, before he returned to his native city in 1899 at the age of twenty-three. At the end of a career divided between his creative work and academia, he spent the last ten years of life lecturing at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.
 
Primarily an opera composer, Wolf-Ferrari is best known for two works which have held the international stage: the comic single-act opera Il segreto di Susanna (Susanna's Secret, Munich, 1909) and the verismo piece, I gioielli della Madonna (The Jewels of the Madonna, Berlin, 1911). The melodic strengths for which these operas are notable extend also to Wolf-Ferrari's instrumental compositions, and his achievements in the concert hall were not inconsiderable. He was one of the first Italian composers to turn from romanticism and towards neo-classicism. In this sense these delightful wind concertos suit him admirably. This is urbane and civilised music, beautifully crafted and superbly balanced.
 
Wolf-Ferrari organises each of these three compositions into a four-movement layout, placing the slow movements third in the sequence. This is not all that they have in common, since the scoring is for chamber orchestra forces and the scale sensitive to the demands on the soloistís technique. The emotional character of the music is refined and sensitive, rather than powerful and intense.
 
Two of these pieces date from the early thirties, whereas the Concertino for Cor Anglais dates from Wolf-Ferrariís last year and was premiered in 1955, seven years after his death. There is little difference in the musical language adopted by the individual pieces, since each is neo-classical in structure while possessing a warmly romantic harmonic characteristic. These Naxos performances are nicely rounded, and so too is the recorded sound, though it has less detail than the SACD version of exactly the same repertoire from the West Saxon Symphony Orchestra on Talent (Talent SACD DOM 2929 90), which was favourably reviewed by Jonathan Woolf in 2008:
 
In comparing these two recordings the really interesting thing is the timings of the three performances, and thatís probably where preferences will lie. The new Naxos CD takes 77 minutes for the three works, whereas the Talent SACD takes 14 minutes less, the biggest differences being in the oboe and bassoon pieces, which are very much more relaxed in Rome (Naxos) than they were in Germany. This suits the music well enough, though it does emphasise the point that the works are best heard singly rather than one after the other. That is exactly how the composer intended it to be.
 

Terry Barfoot
 
Works neo-classical in structure while possessing a warmly romantic harmonic characteristic.

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