A Romantic Master
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.
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