Casella is one of my most intriguing ‘finds’ of recent years, and I
have Naxos to thank for that. The first two symphonies - with Francesco
La Vecchia and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma - combine Mediterranean
warmth and effulgence with Mahlerian heft; it’s a yoking of opposites
that works surprisingly well (review;
I’ve enjoyed other discs in this series, as well as those in
the Gianandrea Noseda/BBC Phil cycle for Chandos. With a few exceptions
these scores are robust, accessible and well crafted.
Noseda and La Vecchia play this music with a proselytising zeal -
always a bonus in ‘rediscovered’ repertoire - although
such complete traversals yield a mix of wheat and chaff. Sonics in
both are pretty good, but the high-res Chandos download of the Second
Symphony and Scarlattiana is in a class of its own (review).
As for Ghedini he’s new to me, so I had no idea what to expect
from his 'Albatross Concerto'; the work is scored for violin, cello,
piano, speaker and orchestra.
The trio features prominently in Casella's Triple Concerto,
whose bold introductory timps and brassy fanfares set the tone for
what follows. Occasionally the cello and violin are swamped by the
over-enthusiastic orchestra, but pianist Emanuela Piemonti redresses
the balance with her forceful, muscular presence. The piano part’s
glitter and gleam are vaguely Ravelian in character, but otherwise
this is raffish street music and it’s played accordingly. The
central Adagio has its share of tender moments - the soloists
are wonderfully eloquent - so it’s easy to forgive the brasher
ones. As for the whirling Rondo it has a reckless charm that
makes for a most entertaining, if giddy, ride.
At best the collision of over-zealous musicians and an excitable score
invites unruliness and, at worst, it flirts with anarchy. Remarkably,
this account of the Triple Concerto skirts both. That said,
it’s nowhere near Casella’s best work, so I wouldn’t
recommend the piece to a newcomer. Those who know and can tolerate
the composer’s excesses will be pleased to have it though. I’m
less forgiving of the close, larger-than-life recording, which makes
the concerto seem blowsier than it actually is.
In common with Respighi and Malipiero, Ghedini was steeped in Italian
Renaissance and Baroque music - he transcribed much of it - yet for
his Concerto dell'albatro he turned to the 19th century and
Melville’s Moby-Dick. Cast in five continuous movements,
it has a brooding Largo and Andante un poco mosso -
violin, cello and piano to the fore - that reveal Ghedini’s
painterly skills. The writing has a searching, interior quality that
impresses, and the pizzicati and ruminative piano part in the
Andante sostenuto are austere without being secco.
Also, the piece exhibits a passionate, deep-delving lyricism that’s
If one’s left with a lingering sense of ‘routine’ after the Casella
concerto that’s soon dispelled by Ghedini’s highly individual,
ever-changing soundscapes. The playing is just fine, but the balances
on this recording are quirky. Indeed, the musicians are almost in one’s
lap at times. However, such immediacy does make the propulsive Allegro and Carlo Doglioni Majer’s
splendid narration sound even more commanding. It’s all skilfully
done, and Ghedini’s colours are so tastefully blended and applied
that I found myself listening for a second time, and a third.
This is a very decent addition to Naxos’s Casella project -
I look forward to a Concerto Romano soon - but it’s the
companion piece that’s most welcome; indeed, it’s prompted
me to seek out other discs of Ghedini’s music. The playing in
these live concerts is rough and ready at times, and the sonics are
somewhat variable, but that’s no reason to ignore this release.
As for David Gallagher’s liner-notes, they are commendably thorough
and well argued.
Casella fans will want this concerto; the Ghedini is a real bonus,
Reviews of other Naxos/Ghedini releases
8.111325 - Jonathan
8.572330 - Jonathan