RESPIGHI The Birds. Three Botticelli Pictures. Suite
Inquisitive disc-buyers will almost certainly alight on tracks 10 13 of this one. If the Trittico botticelliano and Gli uccelli are scarcely unknown to the catalogue, Respighi’s Suite in G major for strings and organ is apparently recorded here for the first time – or, at least, for the first time in its original, uncut version. Is this a good thing? Salvatore Di Vittorio’s new 2011 edition restores two or three minutes’ music and he conducts it with energy, but it remains a great, galumphing piece of Baroquiana. It would help if the strings of the Chamber Orchestra of New York sounded completely unanimous in the opening passage of the ‘Preludio’, but that might have something to do with less than ideally focused acoustics and difficulties of balance between orchestra and organ in Long Island’s Church of St Jean Baptiste. This is early, 1905 Respighi, long before he found a greater finesse in Fontane di Roma a decade later. As such, it is a curiosity, a portent of the subsequent homage he was to pay to earlier Italian masters, but in the Suite his enthusiasm for Frescobaldi, Monteverdi and so on is hardly tempered by either taste or discipline.
The Trittico botticelliano and Gli uccelli, preceded here by the little 1904 Serenata in another Di Vittorio edition, show Respighi in a much more favourable light. The performances, dully recorded in the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center, are competent but not entirely equal to summoning up the sophistication of Respighi’s mature orchestral palette.