GHEDINI Music for Orchestra
Little of Giorgio Federico Ghedini’s orchestral music has appeared on disc, so Daniele Rustioni’s survey of four of his major scores is of considerable importance. Like many 20th-century Italian composers, Ghedini frequently took Renaissance or Baroque tradition as his point of departure, yet his music is neither retroactive nor nostalgic, but forges a uniquely modern language, at once immediate and severe. He matured late, not reaching prominence until he was nearly 50. The works recorded here date from the last 20 years of his life.
The best known is Musica notturna (1947), in which consonance and dissonance flow unsettlingly into one another and a group of solo instruments – two violins, then a mandolin – trace figurations that sound like distorted memories of Vivaldi’s concertos. The austere counterpoint of Appunti per un Credo (1961) has its roots in the asymmetric melodies of plainchant, and a comparable, if at times unnerving, insistence on rhythmic asymmetry is apparent in the neo-classical Sonata da concerto (1958) for flute and strings. In Studi per un affresco di battaglia (1962), commemorating the massacre, in Rome in 1944, of Italian partisans by Nazi troops, a threatening allegro gives way to a fierce lament that eventually spends itself in exhaustion over distant drum taps.
Rustioni proves a superbly intelligent guide to Ghedini’s combination of intellect and passion. You notice the basic string sound changing from piece to piece, as the leanness of Appunti gives way to the queasy over-ripeness of Musica notturna. He’s wonderfully alert to Ghedini’s ambivalent way with brass and woodwind, where beauty and menace are differentiated by the sparest shifts in timbre. The soloists are uniformly excellent, though the mandolinist in Musica notturna should ideally have received a credit along with his colleagues. The violinists in the same work are placed a bit too close in an otherwise finely balanced recording. It’s a significant achievement that forces us to reappraise a composer all too frequently overlooked. Recommended.