Respighi's output besides his famous trilogy of tone poems gets overshadowed by – what else – his other tone poems. So it's great to see this third volume of orchestral works from Brilliant, at rock-bottom price, and in such fine performances. No, the Rome Symphony isn't going to challenge the Chicago Symphony in terms of execution, but unlike the major orchestras, the risk was taken to record this stuff in the first place. So pats on the back to all involved.
Besides, the composers' early work really only needs committed playing and lots of color, and that's something La Vecchia and his players can certainly provide. While I haven't heard the first two volumes, I've read encouraging press, and this is easier music overall. That doesn't make it unworthy of exposure, though, and the composer of The Pines of Rome is very much at work here. Besides being colorful and engaging, the concertos feature some delicious solo writing, attacked with gusto by the various soloists.
I'm not sure if the Sinfonia drammatica fully lives up to its name, but its full of good tunes as you'd expect from the source, and is somewhat like Bruckner meets Italy to my ears. Perhaps it also lacks depth, but as an early 20th-century work it's unblushingly romantic and fully accessible. The rest of the set showcases Respighi's ability to work with a soloist. Each work has merit, but I was especially impressed by the Toccata and the Concerto gregoriano, which are brimming with character. The latter especially has a first movement not unlike The Lark Ascending and is none the worse for that. As mentioned earlier, all the solo work is distinguished.
Volume three of this series gives a glimpse at the composer outside of his more famous tone poems, and all in one inexpensively priced set. If you love the composer, this is a mandatory acquisition, and if you're new to Respighi, I suggest picking up volumes one and two (Brilliant 94392 & 94393) as well. Over the last few years, Brilliant has really given classical lovers music to cherish and learn from. So it is here. Bravo!
Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman