Wolf-Ferrari Overtures & Intermezzos
This selection of orchestral pieces exactly duplicates that of Marriner and the Academy issued by EMI only a few months ago, which however contained two additional items—the intermezzos to L'amore medico and Il segreto di Susanna's. Nevertheless, and despite a duration of only 50 minutes, this disc is well worth hearing by anyone with an ear for sensitive orchestral playing. Wolf-Ferrari's music at its best—in his light comedies written before the First World War—has an elegance and melodic charm that are hard to resist; his one venture into crude and steamy melodrama (I giofelli della Madonna) finds him somewhat uneasily hovering between styles, and though he had the good sense to revert to his earlier field, the later works—in the present programme there is a gap of nearly a quarter of a century between L'amore medico and the next, Il campiello (though in fact Wolf-Ferrari had composed four more operas in that interval)—show a marked falling-off in inspiration. The Ritornello from the latter is a very obvious dilution of the Intermezzo from I quattro rusteghi, and the Overture to La dama boba, though it has a perky section after a rather characterless start, is very uneven. But with the exception of the Intermezzo from the I giofelli, which exposes some imperfections in the RPO's violins, these are all extremely good performances.
In the Overture to Il segreto di Susanna, which gains by being taken at a less breakneck speed than by Marriner, Serebrier has secured finely adjusted balance between thematic strands and carefully graded dynamics: the Prelude to I quattro rusteghi is delicately expressive, and the Intermezzo has restraint and charm: of the I gioielli movements the best is the opening Festa, depicting the hectic gaiety of a Neapolitan crowd with vivid attack. Good recording. '