Ottorino Respighi

Record Ramblings by Ian Lace


I was particularly impressed with a Vox recording (7201) which mixes a reissue of their 1982 recording (that had notes by Elsa Respighi) of Renata Scotto singing Il tramonto and Deità silvane, and a new recording of Quartetto Dorico from the Arcata String Quartet. For the review in Fanfare, I wrote, "Scotto’s Il tramonto is spellbinding, her voice softly caressing, as she sings of the lovers’ wanderings in an idyllic landscape bathed in twilight. Some might find Scotto’s powerful, agonised declamations in the more dramatic sections of the work, a little too strong for this essentially fragile work. Dame Janet Baker (on Collins Classics) is less strident, but committed and touching enough; however, overall, she cannot quite compete with Scotto’s sweetness of tone and velvet sense of line." Her interpretation of the Deità silvane songs with Thomas Fulton (piano) is no less fine. Of the Quartetto Dorico, and the Arcata String Quartet’s performance the review read, "It contains music of striking originality and Respighi’s usual heightened sense of colour is very evident; in fact one frequently forgets that it is a quartet playing, as the sound world seems so much bigger - practically orchestral. As the name implies, the main theme of the work is based on the old church mode, and this theme unifies its constantly evolving web of music through its continuous 20-minute span. The Arcata players propel the music through passages of quiet supplication and cloistered serenity as well as impassioned fervour. Their finely articulated and sensitively attuned ensemble playing is exemplary."

From Pavane came an album (AD W7375) of Respighi’s songs sung by Axel Everaert (tenor). It followed closely on the heels of the 1996 Channel Classics recording featuring Leonardo de Lisi and both albums share much of the same repertory including: Delta silvane, L ‘ultima ebbrezza, Notturno and the Cinque canti all ‘antica (except that Canzone di Re Enzo is omitted on this Pavane disc). Everaert generally allows the songs to unfold more slowly than Leonardo de Lisi whose more oaken and smoky voice, and greater urgency, lends itself better to the more passionate utterances of such songs as Ma come potrei.

Incredibly Target, Hungaroton’s UK distributors, informed me that they are not authorised to market the Hungaroton recording of Respighi’s opera La Fiamma (HCD 1259 1-93) in the UK. However, after I pleaded direct to Hungaroton, they kindly sent me a copy of the set to review in Respighi Society News. It arrived just today so I will write about this opera of love, adultery and witchcraft, set in late 7th century Ravenna, in the next edition of this newsletter. In the meantime if anybody wishes to purchase this set, then I suggest they e-mail Hungaroton direct: -(

Hungaroton have also recorded:

Belfagor (HCD 12850-51); Maria Egiziaca (HCD3 1118) and Semirama (HCD3 1197-98). Assiduous searching might unearth copies.

As I was completing the production of this edition of the newsletter, Adriano sent me news of another soon-to-be-released CD of La Fiamma. It is of the latest, and splendid, Rome opera production with soprano Nelly Miricioiu as Silvana. I hope to include further news about this important project in the next newsletter.

Admirers of Respighi’s music may well be interested in music from other less well known Italian composers. ASV have built up something of a reputation for their recordings of music in this field. I was particularly impressed with their recordings of works by Martucci. In fact, last year I included these comments in my Best of 1997 in Fanfare. "I was overwhelmed by the intensely dramatic and highly colourful music of Martucci. . After listening to D’Avalos and the Philharmonia’ s dazzling reading of Martucci’s Symphony No.1 (which sounds, in parts, like Italian Elgar), I hastened to acquire all four ASV CDs that they have recently repackaged and reissued. I fully endorse what the original Fanfare reviewer said, "another eye-opener. How could a major composer’s talent be denied us for so long?.. . first rate performances...stunningly recorded." Symphonies 1 and 2, with shorter orchestral items including Notturno, Andante and Co/ore orientale are on ASV CDDCA675 and 689 respectively, while Piano Concertos Nos 1 and 2 - the former with the glorious La canzone del ricordi - are available on ASV CDDCA 690 and 691 respectively.

I also recommend the complete piano concertos of Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816) all very tuneful and sunny - sample Volume I with Concertos 2, 3, 4 and 6 on ASV CD DCA 872. Then there are the delightful Decimini of Saverio Mercadante (1795-1870) on ASV CD DCA 936 - works for various chamber ensembles that congenially fuse classical forms with dramatic, often melodramatic, operatic-style music; they are guaranteed to raise a smile. Finally I was impressed with ASV’s recording of the Piano Music of Gian Francesco Malipiero (1882-1973), lovely, flowing evocative music. This album (CD DCA 929) comprises: Pre/udi autumnali, Barlumi, Maschere che passano (Passing maskers), Poemi asolani and the quirky Omaggi.

From Claves comes a new recording and a most enterprising coupling of Martucci’s ravishing La canzona del ricordi and his Notturno with Respighi’s Il tramonto. The mezzo-soprano is Brigitte Balleys with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne conducted by Jesus Lopez —Cobos. (Claves [Espace 2] CD 50-9807.) Look out for a review of this new release in the next edition of this newsletter.

Ian Lace

from Newsletter Autumn 1998

Return to Respighi Front Page

   Return to Classical Music Web