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Alfredo CASELLA (1883-1947)
Triple Concerto, Op. 56 (1933) [29:11]
Giorgio Federico GHEDINI (1892-1965)
Concerto dell'albatro
(1944-1945, rev. 1949) [29:00)
Emanuela Piemonti (piano); Paolo Ghidoni (violin); Pietro Bosna (cello); Carlo Doglioni Majer (speaker)
Orchestra I Pomeriggi Musicali/Damian Iorio
rec. live, Teatro Dal Verme, Milan, Italy, 11-13 January 2007 (Ghedini), 13-15 December 2007 (Casella)
Spoken texts and translations provided
NAXOS 8.573180 [58:11]

Alfredo 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; 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 most engaging.
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, though.
Dan Morgan

Reviews of other Naxos/Ghedini releases
8.111325 - Jonathan Woolf; Christopher Howell
8.572330 - Jonathan Woolf; Byzantion