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Gian Francesco MALIPIERO (1882 – 1973)
Fantasie di ogni giorno (1953) [20:05]
Passacaglie (1952) [16:15]
Concerti (1931) [29:53]
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma/Francesco La Vecchia
rec. OSR Studios, Roma, 9-13 July 2013 and 15-18 July 2013
NAXOS 8.573291 [66:13]

This is the second Naxos disc devoted to the music of Malipiero by Francesco La Vecchia and his Roman orchestra. It is a most worthy sequel to its predecessor. It, too, includes two world premiere recordings.
 
Malipiero led a long and prolific life and composed almost to the very end. So it is not unfair to say that his vast output may be uneven in quality and that some of his works do give the impression of putting notes onto paper without real or with little inner motivation. His output, however, contains many fine and gripping works that clearly deserve to be better known.

That was the case in La Vecchia's earlier Malipiero disc that includes the three 'panels' of Impressioni dal vero and the two Pause del silenzio that count among Malipiero's finest achievements (Naxos 8.572409). Similarly the present release includes the first recording ever of yet another very fine score: Concerti of 1931. This is quite a substantial work in which most instrumental families of the orchestra have a concerto to themselves, the whole preceded by an Esordio (“Preamble”) and capped by a Commiato (“Leave-taking”). On the whole, the piece may be experienced as a concerto for orchestra, a genre that attracted a number of Italian composers such as Pizzetti and the young Petrassi, to name but two who come to mind. This is a truly remarkable work displaying an incredible wealth of invention and instrumental imagination throughout. The composer, however, insisted that “the personality of the different instruments is emphasised not by the virtuosity of which they are capable, but by their expressive possibilities”. This is particularly evident in the Concerto di oboi whereas the Concerto di contrabbassi turns out to be a real tour de force. The music is in turn brilliant, meditative, colourful and at times slightly ironic as in the short Concerto di tamburi. All in all this is one of the finest works that Malipiero ever composed during his long composing life and this recording is therefore most welcome in restoring to circulation a major work that has laid forgotten for all-too-many years. This half an hour of music is worth the price of the disc especially in such fine a reading as this.
 
Both Passacaglie and Fantasie di ogni giorno were composed some twenty years later. In the meantime Malipiero had travelled quite a long way, both stylistically and formally. Passacaglie (note the plural) seem to represent Malipiero's take on that traditional form favoured by many a composer throughout music's history. Both display a formidable contrapuntal mastery. The material itself may be somewhat bland but it is developed with a remarkably sure hand. Both pieces end abruptly as does Fantasie di ogni giorno (“Everyday Fantasies”) composed in 1953 on a commission from the Louisville Philharmonic Society. It was recorded by the Louisville Orchestra conducted by Robert Whitney and it was re-issued some time ago on First Edition Music FECD-0036 that may still be available. The work is a 20-minute long single movement made up of shorter sections played without break. It makes something of a musical journal consisting of ideas jotted down by the composer without any particular purpose until he received the Louisville commission. Working on the piece Malipiero realised that all these sketches fitted fairly easily together in what appears in fact a varied, colourful kaleidoscope. The ideas seem obedient to some inner logic of their own which may be hard to define in words. The present performance and recording are much better than the older Louisville ones that sometimes show their age but are still quite convincing.
 
Francesco La Vecchia conducts committed and beautifully paced readings of these often quizzical scores and gets full and wholehearted support from his orchestra. This very fine release is yet another feather in La Vecchia's cap as well as those of his orchestra and Naxos. Their exploration of the many forgotten corners of Italian music continues tireless and inspired.
 
Hubert Culot