Respighi: Church Windows; Brazilian Impressions; Rossinianaby JoAnn Falletta
Italian composer Ottorino Respighi's name is almost synonymous with his wildly popular set of three orchestral suites referred to collectively as the Roman Trilogy. Regrettably, many of his numerous other orchestral compositions are rarely heard in the concert hall and are infrequently recorded. Naxos does listeners a great service by demonstrating the value of Respighi's other masterful orchestral works to listeners. "Church Windows," probably the most recognizable work outside of the "Roman Trilogy," was brought about through Respighi's interest in the use of modes in Gregorian chant. Interestingly, the titles and descriptions of these four movements were written after the music was completed. The effortless transition between the heavy, earnestness of "Church Windows" and the light, relaxed, folksy feel of "Brazilian Impressions" is a testament to Respighi's far-reaching versatility. Wrapping up the program is "Rossiniana," an orchestral suite lifted from an earlier piano composition. Although containing Rossini's name, the composition is not based on the opera composer's works, but rather the sensibilities and characteristics found in Rossini's music. Performing all of these works is the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under JoAnn Falletta. Overall, their efforts are quite solid. There are some occasional ensemble difficulties, particularly in the sometimes unwieldy brass section of "Church Windows," when all of the rhythms across the orchestra are not completely lined up. However, intonation and sound quality are both quite good, and Falletta does a satisfactory job of capturing the varying characters of the three compositions.
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- Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows), 4 impressions for orchestra, P. 150 - Ottorino Respighi - Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra - JoAnn Falletta
- Impressione brasiliane (Brazilian Impressions), for orchestra, P. 153 - Ottorino Respighi - Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra - JoAnn Falletta
- Rossiniana, original music by Rossini arranged for orchestra, P. 148 - Ottorino Respighi - Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra - JoAnn Falletta
Performance CreditsJoAnn Falletta Primary Artist
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Midway through the first movement of Brazilian Impressions, I realised what it was that was bothering me: it was reminding me of Copland's Appalachian Spring, and the point where it's just about to give you the big "Simple gifts" theme. Except in this case there was 10 minutes of waiting and no big moment. Well, we can't blame Respighi for that - he didn't compose just to please me. So I will acknowledge that other listeners might not have the same problem. It was a nagging presence for a while though - the Flight into Egypt reminded me of Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia, and St Michael's aerial battle put me in mind of Walton's Spitfire Prelude. Again, why criticize Respighi for writing something other than those pieces of music? Taken on their own terms, both Church Windows and Brazilian Impressions have much going for them, notably their rich orchestration and the atmospheres they evoke. It's just that in the final analysis they don't quite give me enough. If I've left Rossiniana out of the discussion so far, that's because it's a different kettle of fish. Ironically, given that my previous complaint was that other composers were being brought to mind, here Respighi deliberately seeks inspiration from another. The four pieces here all evoke the spirit "and music - none of the pieces is familiar to me, though" of Rossini, ranging from a marvellous dramatic Lamento that might have strayed in from William Tell, to the exuberant Tarantella. This was by far my favorite work of the 3, and the one on which I can confidently recommend the album.
Although my musical taste tends toward the avant-garde and experimental, I must confess that Respighi has long been one of my favorite composers. An unashamed romantic who looked to ancient musical forms (particularly Medieval and Renaissance) for inspiration, he created music of rich harmonic grandeur and deep emotional resonance. These are the defining qualities of the symphonic suite “Church Windows,” which is given a spirited and sincere performance on this Naxos disc by the Buffalo Philharmonic under the baton of JoAnn Falletta. This is music of almost overwhelming beauty buttressed by a strong undercurrent of dark lyricism. Respighi sustains an impressionistic atmosphere throughout the four movements, enhanced by marvelous touches of color on celeste, harp and pipe organ. Falletta is fully tuned in to the music’s dramatic ebb and flow, exposing all the emotional nuances in its lush sonorities and all the drama in its orchestral thunder. “Brazilian Impressions” is among Respighi’s more delicate and subdued works. The bucolic first movement pays tribute to the beauty of Brazil’s natural environment the more spirited third movement, with its rhythmic syncopation and colorful harmonics, successfully evokes the country’s native musical forms. The composer’s “Rossiniana: Suite for Orchestra,” the final offering on this disc, is a musical tribute to Rossini, in particular the latter’s piano music. Respighi’s gift for melody is apparent in the buoyant, waltz-like first movement, the moody dramatics of the slower-paced second, and the near-frenetic, yet always graceful final movement. Respighi was all about elegance, clarity of expression and a concern for melody, qualities that never go out of style. Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic carry out Respighi’s musical conception with heartfelt and symbiotic fidelity.