RESPIGHI Complete Orchestral Music Vol 4
Volume 4 in Francesco La Vecchia’s ambitious Respighi series for Brilliant Classics launches in crisply invigorating style with the irresistible Ancient Airs and Dances. La Vecchia directs proceedings with obvious affection, and the playing has engaging spirit and no mean grace, though I do miss the abundant charisma, corporate sheen and ingratiating glow of, say, Seiji Ozawa’s classic 1979 Boston SO recording (one of the undisputed highlights of that partnership’s distinguished DG discography). The performance of the delicious 1925 suite Rossiniana is rather less compelling and never quite hits full stride: in terms of recreative flair, exquisite poise and sheer composure, Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic are in an entirely different league – as, for that matter, is the Chandos sound (the hollow acoustic on this newcomer is not kind).
Composed in 1925, the Concerto in modo misolidio serves up (to my ears at any rate) an unappetisingly thin brew over a disconcertingly sprawling 40 minutes. Désirée Scuccuglia gives a red-blooded and formidably secure account of the solo part and enjoys efficient support from La Vecchia and his Roman forces but it’s not a performance that minimises the work’s longueurs to the same degree as does the notably refined Mustonen/Finnish RSO/Oramo collaboration on Ondine. As for Metamorphoseon modi XII (an exuberantly inventive theme and variations commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky for the Boston Symphony’s Golden Jubilee in 1930), it was Geoffrey Simon who spearheaded the revival in fortune of this spectacularly colourful and endearingly big-hearted creation with his stunningly engineered Chandos recording with the Philharmonia, since when I’ve encountered eminently useful readings from Jesús López-Cobos and George Hanson. By their side, La Vecchia’s daringly expansive conception wears a somewhat sturdier demeanour, but it remains a likeable, agreeably characterful display to round off what is a frustratingly uneven albeit enticingly priced survey.