Respighi Roman Trilogy; (Il) tramonto
What more appropriate orchestra to record the three Roman colour-scapes of Respighi than Rome’s greatest orchestra under its music director, Antonio Pappano? In every way this new version is more than a match for the fine Dutoit version of the trilogy (Decca, 8/94R – although only part of it is currently available). As in Italian opera, Pappano has a natural feeling for flexible phrasing without exaggeration, and here he has even more resilience in his springing of rhythms than Dutoit, while the fine EMI recording offers clean separation and a wide dynamic range to match even the brilliant Decca.
It adds to the attractions of the disc that as a bonus Pappano offers the lovely setting of Shelley in translation for mezzo and strings, Il tramonto (“The Sunset”), beautifully sung with clear, firm tone by Christine Rice. Dutoit puts the trilogy pieces in his chosen order while Pappano presents them in chronological order, ending with the noisiest – and least inspired – Roman Festivals. Nonetheless, Pappano conducts that, as he does the earlier two pieces, with all the flamboyance needed for such boldly extrovert music.
These are unashamed picture-postcards in music, and the images they evoke are always exceptionally vivid. One slight reservation is that the recording of a nightingale that the adventurous Respighi includes towards the close of the “The Pines of the Janiculum” is so faint you can barely hear it. Pappano’s trilogy now stands as a model for a colourful and ideal coupling, particularly with such an apt fill-up as Il tramonto.