The blatant aversion of Italian composer Ottorino Respighi toward the contemporary trends in the music of the Schoenbergs and Stravinskys during the early 1900's helped to establish his reputation among the modern experimental school as a persona non grata. Respighi added insult to injury against these foes by creating a series of orchestral potboilers (esp. his Roman Trilogy) which seemed the perfect blending of Rimsky-Korsakov, Richard Strauss, Debussy and Puccini. His arresting, sumptuous works met with immediate success, appealing to the hoi polloi of his day as no Schoenberg work ever could. They also became virtuoso vehicles for conductors and their orchestras, from Toscanini onward. In the age of recording, Respighi's Pines of Rome, Fountains of Rome and Feste Romane are considered among the most compatible of compositions for demonstrating that medium.
This new Dorian disc teams two-thirds of the Roman Trilogy (omitting Fountains) with its South American counterpart, the Brazilian Impressions. The equation for translating the musical notes into fabulously colorful and inspiring music is apparently not a complex quadratic one, since all the recordings ever made of this music are attractive in one way or another. Alongside the generally acknowledged-to-be top recording featuring Dutoit and Montréal (London 410145; also, will London please reissue the fine Maazel/Cleveland effort) we can now add the new Mata/Dallas disc as a sonic tour-de-force.
Interestingly, in Mata's hands the big musical climaxes are generally broadened, even relaxed, without loss of impact. This impression is probably due in part to Dorian's stupendous sonic picture, which showers the listener over and over with Respighi's fresh and incredibly full palette. In sum, only those with a blatant aversion to such symphonic and audiophilic tendencies will be displeased with this disc.
Copyright © 1996, Peter S. Murano