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V 1: Complete Orchestral Music

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Product Details

  • Performer: Orchestra Sinfonica Di Roma; La Vecchia; Palcich
  • Composer: Respighi Ottorino
  • Audio CD (March 27 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Bri
  • ASIN: B006OZN78C
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #42,061 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A new look at old warhorses April 10 2012
By Martin Selbrede - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The Suite for Strings in G minor and the Suite in G for Strings and Organ receive excellent, beautifully-recorded performances. The big question is, what did La Vecchia do with the Roman Trilogy and The Birds? Is there some reason to buy this set if you're not a completionist? The surprising answer is, Yes.

Surprising, because as I listened, it took time for La Vecchia to win me over to a consistent conceit of his: remarkably slow tempi for the quieter movements. E.g., the Janiculum section of Pines, at 9:17, is arguably the slowest ever recorded, and we see similarly slow tempi in Feste's Jubilee and October Festival (except for the mandolin serenade, which enters abruptly as the fastest anyone has taken the triple meter). The outer movements of Fountains, ditto. Natural reaction to a listener who owns every available recording (and out of print ones): after the first few bars, you think "Boy, this is dragging" ... until you notice all the gorgeous details in the sonic fabric that were obliterated by the other interpreters. Inner voices, phrase shapings, beauty formerly unrecognized. My go-to Birds is the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra's take (and it's still a keeper), but La Vecchia makes other versions seem rushed because so much is lost at the quicker tempi we're accustomed to.

Although an organ work is part of this two-CD set (more to come in this CD series by Brilliant Classics, FYI), the Roman trilogy lacks any organ (which is exposed at the climax of Circenses when it's used -- omitting it might work here, but not when La Vecchia records Vetrate di Chiesa later in this series). La Vecchia takes Respighi at his word in Circenses, to the effect that the martyr's hymn prevails until drowned in the tumult. La Vecchia therefore emphasizes it, phrasing it carefully and making it the focal point, not the brass snarling in dissonant convolutions around the string theme. The horns are bit more recessed in this movement than I like, and even the climax is slower than most (compare the reckless pace taken by Goosens at the climax -- who also omits the pipe organ). La Befana here isn't the best on record, a bit slower than most, but gaining some clarity at the expense of tempo. The final saltarello isn't as exciting as others have delivered it (Goosens, Muti, Maazel with Cleveland, etc.), but the brass fanfares suddenly kick up the tempo into the coda, making the syncopations even more violent than usual. In other words, like John Neschling, La Vecchia plays some games with tempo changes -- and perhaps it's fair to say that La Vecchia's affectations make more sense (Neschling's accelerando in Jubilee was a Jumble).

One would think there's an authoritative air about any Respighi project being performed by the putative orchestra of Rome (the city being Respighi's adopted home town, although it took time before he was won over by it). And I believe this CD set satisfies that requirement in an interesting way, by setting new standards and allowing us to actually HEAR what Respighi wrote in many instances. P.S., for those who prefer their Roman Trilogy to be chock full of deep organ pedals, opt for the Royal Philharmonic under Josep Caballe-Domenech. That is one point Cabbale-Domenech's version has going for it (also true for Malcolm Sargent's early stereo era version).

But Caballe-Domenech's idiosyncrasies don't make as much sense as La Vecchia's, despite La Vecchia's extreme take on slower tempi (counterintuitive, yes, but true nonetheless -- even for The Birds where new details come to the fore that are stunning in their poetic effect -- pace, Orpheus C.O.). Even the Via Appia in Pines, while slower than usual (at first), brings out details (deep piano tones ring longer and more profoundly than usual, the cor anglais is phrased with more emotion, etc.) that make slowing down to smell the roses worth the extra time. La Vecchia gives us the intimate detail of Antonio Pappano (and more) without sacrificing orchestral force when Respighi calls for it. At this price, it's a no-brainer. So... when's Volume 2 coming out?

(Note: although the description claims this was recorded in 2009, that's only true for The Birds and the two string suites -- the Roman Trilogy was recorded in 2010. The enclosed booklet, written in a galvanizing way to make its subject interesting, is fine for those new to Respighi, but experienced listeners are not likely to learn anything new from it. A few typos mar the booklet -- I guess printers' devils hate classical music.)
Fresh and New Nov. 17 2015
By paulwrites - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
First, I must admit to a slight bias; I love this orchestra. Whenever we are in Rome (often but not enough) we go see and hear them at the enchanting auditorium sometimes called l'auditorium conciliazione, sometimes l'accademia de santa cecilia. No matter, this is an underrated orchestra and conductor, and this CD is proof. Up until now my gold standard for i pini di roma was the wonderful recording made by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra back somewhere in the late 1950s or early 1960s on RCA Living Stereo (it's still available on CD). I have heard maybe 10 different orchestras and conductors perform this work; none has come close to Reiner's, until now. This performance - actually the entire so-called Roman Trilogy - led by Francesco La Vecchia, is my new yardstick.

First and foremost, the tempi are right. I can't believe how many conductors take one or more of these at breakneck speed, as if trying to prove how fast their orchestras can play. La Vecchia takes his time (I don't mean he plays slowly) so you can hear the inner voices clearly. Respighi was a genius at orchestration, so when you listen to his music you have to hear all the wonderful details he created. Speed blurs them; La Vecchia articulates them. Next, phrasing. Reiner did something no one else understood, until this recording. In the second section - pini presso una catabomba - the slow movement that goes from 4/4 to 5/4 to 6/4 and then reverses down again. It's called rubato. It means the tiniest pause or hold at the end of each phrase so that you feel you're hanging, waiting for the next phrase to begin. (Artur Rubinstein was a genius at rubato.) Reiner had the Chicago doing it beautifully. It makes the difference between playing music and making music. And the last section, pini della via appia, the Sinfonica di Roma does it perfectly and it makes a world of difference. Here Respighi wants us to hear Roman soldiers marching. Most conductors play it as a march, like Sousa would. La Vecchia lets us hear the ancient drums setting the pace for the army. It's goosebumpy.

I'm spending a lot of time on i pini. But the other well-known pieces on this 2-CD album also sound new again. I was particularly surprised by gli ocelli, one of those pieces you grow up with and get tired of after a few years. But La Vecchia makes it fresh. I think he just looked at all these scores and asked what there was in this music that people had been either missing or ignoring for so long. I also think many if not most conductors record well-known works because they think they should, not because they want people to hear the music as the composers created it. Clearly La Vecchia and Sinfonica di Roma are champions of Respighi. It's why you should buy and listen to this album. It will not disappoint.
0 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Rather mediocre recording. Dec 26 2012
By Michael D. Wormser - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Far from the best orchestral rendition that I've heard. I would have ordered it had I first been able to hear it.

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