|About this Recording
8.553207 - RESPIGHI, O.: Piano Concerto in A Minor / Toccata / Fantasia Slava (Scherbakov, Slovak Radio Symphony, H. Griffiths)
Ottorino Respighi (1879 - 1936)
Respighi is best known for his colourful pictures of Rome in the symphonic poems, the Fontane di Roma, Pini di Roma and Feste Romane. Born in Bologna in 1879, the son of a musician, he was taught the piano by his father and later entered the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, where his teachers included Federico Sarti, and, for composition, Torchi and Martucci. An engagement as a string- player in St Petersburg in 1900 and 1901, and a return there in 1902-3, allowed him to embark on study with Rimsky-Korsakov, before his return to Bologna, where he took his diploma in composition. For five years, from 1903 to 1908, he was a member of the Quartetto Mugellini. He then spent some months in Berlin, where Nikisch conducted some of his transcriptions of earlier music, including Vitali's Chaconne and Monteverdi's Lamento di Arianna, tokens of his continuing interest in earlier periods of Italian music. He was also able to take lessons from Max Broch. In 1913 he took a position as teacher of composition at the Liceo di Santa Cecilia in Rome, later the Conservatorio, and in 1924 was appointed director of the same institution. In 1919 he married Elsa Olivieri Sangiacomo, his pupil and herself a singer and composer. In 1926 he resigned his position as director of the Conservatory and for the last ten years of his life devoted himself more fully to composition.
Respighi was certainly one of the most important Italian composers of his time and won for himself an international reputation in concert tours throughout Europe and in America. The first of the Roman symphonic poems, the Fontane di Roma, was completed in 1916, with I Pini completed in 1924 and the Feste romane in 1928. His Piano Concerto in A minor is a relatively early work, completed in 1902, and it is therefore natural that other influences should be apparent, elements that suggest earlier musical practices as much as contemporary, although it was some years before his interest in Gregorian chant found direct expression in his Concerto gregoriano for violin and orchestra, completed in 1921, and his Concerto in modo misolidio for piano and orchestra, completed four years later. The Piano Concerto opens with a grandiose flourish, before more lyrical material is introduced. The piano-writing is often florid, idiomatic and demanding, in music that is thoroughly romantic in character, moving to a calmer central section, its serenity shattered by the outburst that marks the final section of the work, a dramatic finale, that brings its own moments of repose and of bravura.
Respighi's Toccata for piano and orchestra was written in 1928, the year of Feste romane, three years after the Concerto in modo misolidio. There is an impressive opening that has inevitable echoes of the Baroque in its abruptly dotted rhythms, with the introduction of a less characteristic melodic element, notably from a solo cello in dialogue with the piano, followed by material of a clearly modal nature. There is a passage of deeply felt melancholy at the heart of the work, before the brilliant piano sequences that introduce the vigorous final section, with its cadenza and figuration suggesting a transmutation of Baroque sequential passage-work.
The Fantasia Slava for piano and orchestra was completed in 1903 and might naturally be supposed to reflect something of Respighi's stay in St Petersburg and the brief period of study with Rimsky-Korsakov. The Fantasia opens with a typically Slav melody, before the entry of the solo piano. Dance elements appear, in interplay between piano and orchestra, with more histrionic material and passages of pianistic display, over which the spirit of Rachmaninov sometimes hovers.
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
Ankara Festival with the Northern Sinfonia has led to a series of important recordings. Howard Griffiths is director of the Strings of Zurich and is artistic director of the Allensbach Music Festival in Germany. ln 1994 he was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and has recently accepted a similar appointment with the Oxford Orchestra da Camera.
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