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Alberto CURCI (1886-1973)
Violin Concerto No. 1, Concerto Romantico, Op. 21 (publ. 1944) [16:33]
Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 30 (1962) [20:42]
Violin Concerto No. 3, Op. 33 (publ. 1966) [18:57]
Suite italiana in stile antico, Op. 34 (publ. 1966) [15:52]
Franco Gulli (violin)
Studio Orchestra/Franco Capuana
rec. Basilica of Sant'Eufemia, Milan, 16 July 1963 (2), 18 July 1963 (1), 4 July 1964 (3 and Suite). ADD. Stereo.

Blessed or cursed with longevity, Alberto Curci clearly had no time for any twentieth century musical trend that placed obstacles in the way of audience appreciation. Here, courtesy of First Hand Records, are four works by this Italian composer. They have been rescued from Curci's own archive. They appeared, in mono, on a small circulation LP in the 1960s. Now they bow back in with previously unissued stereo versions. The tapes have been tenderly refurbished and sound clean and punchy if hardly luxurious.

The trilogy of three-movement concertos steps boldly out with the Concerto Romantico. It's in an unabashed old-fashioned style that would fit without audible seams alongside the violin concertos by Tchaikovsky, Glazunov or Arensky. In this context Curci keeps things on the sentimental simmer and occasionally allows things to boil over. None of this is hard work. The finale dances along with the sort of confident ease you find in other easefully backward-looking works such as the violin concertos by Kabalevsky, Ivanovs and Schoeck. The Second Concerto is on pretty much the same wave-length without quite the melodic inspiration found in the first concerto. The sweetness of ideas and rapturous tone of Franco Gulli (1926-2001) remain generously present. The catchy courtly dance style of the finale (Wieniawski on steroids) carries over from the finale of the First Concerto. The Third Concerto adopts the same searchingly joyous immersion. You might want to take a break midway through this disc. You would then be better attuned to the unremitting flow of honeyed aureate sentiment ladled out by the Third Concerto. Gulli more than copes with the demanding technical side of Curci's writing. The Suite is in five short movements. Despite the title, which might lead you to expect neo-classicism, this is in pretty much the same aristocratic idiom practised by Curci in the concertos.

Trust FHR, who are no strangers to reviews on this site, to lend a helping hand to such unusual fare. Their future projects include Rohan de Saram's Bax Rhapsodic Ballad and a rafter-shaking collection of Russian violin sonatas including those by Myaskovsky and his pupil Shebalin. The latter are courtesy of Sasha Rozhdestvensky who, not so long ago, recorded the Glazunov Concerto with Nimbus.

Don't expect 20th century torment. Curci is happy to be caught in the 19th century aspic of late-romance and warm luxury.

Rob Barnett

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf



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