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Donald R Vroon
American Record Guide, July 2010

There is a Buffalo Philharmonic recording on Naxos. It has a nice sound, and the brass are good but the organ very weak. It’s a rather lame performance, though. It rather dawdles; there is no passion or drive or sweep.

This is a sequel to Boutique Fantasque. Like most sequels, it is not up to the original. The orchestrations of Sins of Old Age are quite imaginative, but the best pieces were used in the earlier work. There are very few recordings of this. We liked the Dorati (comes with the Munch Pines & Fountains) and the Janigro on Vanguard. But JoAnn Falletta is livelier and bouncier and takes the music less seriously than Dorati, which suits it. It skips along lightheartedly.



John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, May 2010

The four-part Church Windows, which began life as a series of piano pieces, premiered in orchestral form in 1927, and like others of Respighi’s works, it is big and slightly medieval sounding, inspired by his own religious convictions and by scenes from stained-glass windows. JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic play them more gently than I’ve heard them before, yet the musicians well capture the fervent spirit of the music, both in its grandeur and repose.

The three Brazilian Impressions that follow are less descriptive than Church Windows and more like hints and suggestions of the composer’s trip to Brazil in 1927. The music is actually more subtle and atmospheric than you might expect.

Finally, Respighi always liked Rossini’s music, as his ballet La boutique fantasque had shown in 1919. So he turned again to the inspiration of Rossini in 1925 with what he called piano “trifles,” later orchestrated as a suite of four numbers. They possess a warm Italian glow, which, again, Falletta and the Buffalo players amply capture. This is not great music, but it is charming and entertaining.

The sound Naxos engineers provide for the music is first-rate as well. Indeed, it is among the best recordings I’ve heard from Naxos in quite a while. And given the number of recordings the Naxos people produce every month, that’s saying something. The sonics are ultrasmooth, yet reasonably well detailed, too, with a generous stereo spread and a warm, ambient acoustic. Let’s say the sound matches the music.




Penguin Guide, January 2009

Following up earlier Respighi issues, Naxos here offer another group of rich and exotic works which demonstrate his extraordinary gift for brilliant orchestration. Brazilian Impressions stemmed from a visit that the composer himself made to Brazil. The first of the three pieces is a nocturne, Tropical Night, with fragments of dance rhythms hinted at in the sensuous textures. The second is a sinister picture of a snake farm that Respighi visited, with hints of birdsong, while the third and final movement finds Respighi in extrovert mood in a vigorous and colourful dance. But the longest and most ambitious of the three works here is Church Windows, with suitable paintings chosen to go with each piece—The Flight into Egypt for the gentle opening movement, St Michael the Archangel for the vigorous second, The Matins of St Clare for the third, and St Gregory the Great for the grandest of the four, rounding off the work with a glorious display, like a papal coronation in sound. This Naxos issue now upstages the Chandos disc above, which does not include Rossiniana of 1925, which was Respighi’s attempt to follow up the enormous success of La Boutique fantasque, this time using some of Rossini’s trifling piano pieces, Les Riens. It is in the finale that he comes nearest to the ebullience of La Boutique fantasque in a Tarantella; but, colourful as these pieces are, they hardly rival those in the earlier suite. The Buffalo Philharmonic under its music director, JoAnn Falletta, is treated to warm and spectacular recording, apt for such exotic pieces.



Howard Smith
Music & Vision, May 2008

The most salient feature of this Respighi concert is its abundance of potent musical enjoyment; melody, colour and inventive expression. All three scores appear to defy a half-hearted or disinterested response. Even more, on the strength of Naxos’ recording, the Buffalo orchestra, with European tours under its belt, though less than widely known beyond American shores, reveals itself as a gutsy, bounteous, brilliant, richly expressive and finely balanced ensemble. Their performances are more than the equal of a stimulating Church Windows and Brazilian Impressions (also Roman Festivals) on Telarc (1994) with Respighi researcher Jesús López-Cobos and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The fact is, Buffalo Philharmonic’s music director, JoAnn Falletta, stands tall among the growing ranks of masterly women conductors; among their numbers—Marin Alsop, Sonia Marie De Leon de Vega, Anne Manson, Odaline de la Martinez, Sian Edwards and Jane Glover. To do her justice would require a lengthier curriculum vitae than space here allows but it’s worth noting that away from the podium JoAnn is a fine performing guitarist and respected poet.

Recently the Virginia Arts Festival released Borrowed Treasures, Ms Falletta’s third disc performing chamber music for guitar. In addition the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition has brought an enlarged measure of acclaim and attention to classical guitar along the fringes of the Eastern Seaboard. In 2006, she was inducted into the Western New York Women’s Hall of Fame, and received the Human Relations Award from the Buffalo/Niagra Chapter of the American Jewish Committee.

Beyond her Buffalo Philharmonic recordings, other CDs have involved the London Symphony, the Virginia Symphony, the Prague Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, Czech National Symphony, Philadelphia Philharmonia and the Women’s Philharmonic.

For many music lovers Respighi is even today best-known for a small handful of works—firstly his ‘sound paintings’ of Rome; Fontane di Roma (‘Fountains of Rome’, 1916), Pini di Roma (‘Pines of Rome’, 1924) and Feste Romane (Roman Festivals, 1929). Secondly La boutique fantasque (1919), and finally three suites of Antiche danze ed arie per liuto (‘Ancient Airs and Dances’, 1917, 1924 and 1932), inspired by works of Rossini. Vetrate di chiesa (‘Church Windows’) comprises four tableaux: La fuga in Egitto (‘The Flight into Egypt’), San Michele Argangelo (‘St Michael the Archangel’), Il mattutino di Santa Chiara (‘The Matins of St Clare’) and San Grigorio Magno (‘St Gregory the Great’). ‘The flight to Egypt’ moves at an unhurried eastern pace; a scene enacted beneath limitless desert skies. Already Respighi’s scoring has unmistakable eastern colouring derived from his studies with Rimsky Korsakov. This tableau shows the finest efficacy of Buffalo’s woodwinds and strings. ‘St Michael the Archangel’ is generally presented as the field commander of the Army of God; indeed Respighi presents his ‘imagery’ as combative in character, full of sound and fury for 3’ 6”, after which a central interlude recalls the languid mood of Respighi’s previous ‘window’. Finally at 4’ 33” Buffalo’s brass players return at full tilt. The ‘archangel’ appears in both the biblical Book of Daniel (Old Testament) and the Book of Revelation (New Testament). St Clare (1194–1253) was among the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Umbria and founded the Order of Poor Ladies to organize the women who chose to embrace monastic life according to the Franciscan vision. Her sanctity and repose are heard in ‘The Matins of St Clare’. While her matins have some passing turbulence, this is left behind at 2’ 40” and obeisance prevails to the sound of bells. Saint Gregory I the ‘Great’ (c540–12 March 604) was Pope from 3 September 590 until his death. He was the first of the Popes from a monastic background and of all pontiffs had most influence on the early medieval church. For the first minute and fifteen seconds Respighi seems to glance backward at Pope Gregory with sepulchral orchestration, not wholly dispelled till the 2’ 17” mark. From thenceforth the scoring underlines the Saint’s defining sobriquet—‘Great’. Francis Aidan Gasquet, OSB (1846–1929) published an edition of a manuscript giving the earliest Life of St Gregory the Great, which he had found in the Benedictine Abbey of St Gall, Switzerland. Early last century that printed volume was discovered in St Hilda’s Priory Library of the Anglican Order of the Holy Paraclete, Whitby, UK.

Falletta and her players are impressively alive to each facet of Respighi’s aural colourations throughout the pictures, written in 1919, while the composer holidayed with his wife on Capri. ‘Windows’ started out as three piano preludes based on Gregorian melodies and later expanded for full orchestra with their present title. Church windows have nothing to do with the music, though the titles do. For Brazilian Impressions, the composer was inspired by a visit to the country in 1927. But the colourfully evocative Notte tropicale fails to make landfall in South America. This is night music to rival de Falla’s Noches en los Jardines de España, the central segment in Bartók’s Adagio religioso from his Piano Concerto No 3, even Mussorgsky’s demonic St John’s Night on the Bare Mountain (1867). But of Latin-America there is scarcely a trace. Hospital Vital Brazil, Instituto Butantan, Sao Paulo, is a venom research centre and Respighi’s slithering item Butantan with its passing reference to the 13th century Latin Dies Irae, brings to mind widely-feared elongate snakes. How fastidiously Falletta details this movement. With his Canzona e danza Respighi finally transports us to a Brazilian folk setting with its joyful bustle, colour and lively syncopated dance. While Brazilian Impressions is something of a misnomer, Falletta and her Buffalo players treat us to performances of distinction.

And so to Rossiniana: a reworking of slight piano pieces by the composer of An Italian Girl in Algiers, The Barber of Seville, The Thieving Magpie and William Tell. The four movements—Allegretto, Lamento, Intermezzo and a hugely infectious Tarantella—are so full of Respighi’s colourful and rhythmically diverse orchestration that they bring the curtain down to ‘Bravos’ from me and (I don’t doubt) very many others.

The Naxos/Respighi CD notes (front and back) shows four stained glass windows at St Joseph Cathedral, Buffalo, NY.

Here the Buffalo team meet ‘head-to-head’ with the BBC Philharmonic and conductor Gianandrea Noseda (Chandos) in stellar Respighi performances, including Burlesca, Preludio, Corale e Fuga, Rossiniana and Five Etudes Tableaux (after Rachmaninov).

The price differential tips the scales unquestionably in Buffalo’s favour. Bravo!



Colin Clarke
Fanfare, May 2008

Reading Jerry Dubins’s interview with JoAnn Falletta (Fanfare 27: 4), one comes away with the impression that Falletta is a powerhouse of a conductor, with Gergiev-like reserves of strength. To be frank, I had not heard any of her recordings prior to this one, and I was not familiar with the work of the Buffalo Philharmonic. All I can say is I am glad I heard this disc, for in its intelligent planning, its superb recording, and its dedicated playing it puts forward one of the best cases for Respighi’s music I have heard in years. It is perhaps the sensitivity that Falletta garners from her Buffalo forces that impresses most of all. She can take her orchestra down to the merest whisper (perfectly captured in Producer Tom Shepard’s recording; try “The Matins of Saint Clare”), and sustain a restrained tension for uncannily long passages.

The Vetrate di chiesa (“Church Windows”) is a reworking of a piano piece, Tre preludi sopra melodie gregoriane of 1919, with the composer adding a fourth movement. Each movement has its own subtitle, added after the music itself was completed. Translated into English, they read, “The Flight into Egypt,” “Saint Michael the Archangel,” “The Matins of Saint Clare,” “Saint Gregory the Great.” “The Flight into Egypt” is sultry, utilizing harmonies that seem unwilling to settle anywhere for long, while in contrast “San Michel Arcangelo” is characterized by its unstoppability. Perhaps it is the mesmeric “Saint Gregory the Great” that is most imposing, though, with a long-term interpretive strategy in evidence from Falletta. Gregorian chorales take on ringing authority, while the entrance of the organ in the finale has a real weight of meaning attached to it.

The Impressioni brasiliane was the result of a commission from the Rio Philharmonic for a Brazilian suite (it was premiered in Rio in 1928). The first movement is a depiction of a tropical night, and Faletta and her forces seem to relish every opportunity to paint for the listener in pastels. The title of the second movement, “Butantan,” refers to a place where there is a reptile institute that houses poisonous snakes. The scoring is frequently graphic (no missing the rattle snake), while plainsong turns up in the form of the famous “Dies irae.” Again, it is in the more atmospheric, almost Impressionist movements that the Buffalo forces shine.

Finally, Rossiniana, a transcription of some of Respighi’s piano pieces, originally entitled Les riens. Some of Respighi’s best loved music, charm is high on the agenda here. How lovely the opening movement swings gently along in the manner of a barcarolle; how one revels in the liquid clarinet solos of the second movement lament (the clarinetist is, alas, uncredited). The final tarantella is infectious yet remarkably varied.

The disc is expertly annotated. The artwork, which features reproductions of church windows, is raised from the level of the predictable by using photos of stained glass from Saint Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo, NY. A nice touch that reveals careful thought on the part of Naxos.



Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, May 2008

My reference recording for Respighi’s Church Windows has long been the Reference recording with Keith Clark conducting the Pacific Symphony Orchestra. And while I’m not quite ready to retire it in favor of this new entry from Naxos, Falletta and the Buffalo band give Clark and his West-Coasters a significant run for their money…Performance-wise, Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic needn’t take a back seat to any of the other recordings of the piece I’ve heard. But the Naxos recording, excellent as it is, does not have quite the depth, spaciousness, and resonance of the Reference recording, which is after all the product of a company that once shunned CDs and prided itself on being the absolute gold standard in audiophile-land.

Falletta and company seem to be enjoying themselves as well, with a quickness of wit that savors this Popsicle before it melts. A sheer delight.



Christopher Thomas
MusicWeb International, March 2008

The fact that Ottorino Respighi’s reputation rests principally on the “Roman Trilogy” has long been something of a mystery. One has to spend only a few minutes with this latest Naxos release of three of his lesser known orchestral works to appreciate that his abundantly rich and colourful palette was not solely confined to the three Roman works. Even so they were largely considered to be the pinnacle of his achievement during his lifetime and have been chiefly responsible for the continuation of his reputation since.

Over a period of some years now Naxos has slowly but surely been expanding its Respighi catalogue. This is the fifth disc dedicated to his orchestral music and there are also several discs exploring other aspects of his output.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under its enterprising Musical Director JoAnn Falletta, has recorded for Naxos before although this is the orchestra’s first excursion into Respighi’s catalogue. On early evidence at least, it’s a relationship that is clearly capable of yielding impressive results.

All three of these works date from the last decade or so of Respighi’s life and are closely contemporaneous with The Pines of Rome of 1924 and Roman Festivals of 1928. The first instalment of the Roman Trilogy, The Fountains of Rome, had been the first of the Roman Trilogy to appear some years earlier in 1917.

JoAnn Falletta and her orchestra clearly revel in his luxuriant, exotic world although it should be added that the Naxos engineers have done their bit too. The orchestral sound is magnificent, finely captured in the equally lavish and eminently suitable acoustic of the orchestra’s “home” venue in New York State. Nowhere is this more evident than in Vetrate di Chiesa, or the Four Symphonic Impressions as the work is subtitled. Church Windows started its life in the form of the Three Preludes for piano, written whilst the composer was staying on the island of Capri with his wife Elsa in 1919. It was in 1925 that the composer expanded and orchestrated the original three pieces with the addition of a fourth. It was Respighi’s friend and librettist Claudio Guastalla that suggested the title of Church Windows, interestingly after the music had been completed. The titles of the individual “impressions” came last of all, yet it is to the credit of Guastalla and Respighi that “The Flight into Egypt”, “St. Michael the Archangel”, “The Matins of St Clare” and “St. Gregory the Great” so aptly reflect grandeur, spirituality and exoticism. Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic respond with vibrancy and warmth in equal measure, clearly revelling in a work that deserves to occupy a more prominent position in Respighi’s canon.

Many of the same sentiments can be used to describe Brazilian Impressions, a work that is, if anything, less well known than Church Windows but which is wonderfully evocative in its sultry, South American atmosphere. The languorous sounds of the extended opening movement “Tropical Night”, at times Debussian in both its orchestration and harmonic deftness, is particularly affecting in the hands of Falletta. The concluding “Song and Dance” is a colourful yet ultimately delicate exploration of Latin dance rhythms—irresistibly infectious in its good humour.

If there is a disappointment here—and it would be churlish to overstate the point—it comes in the orchestral suite, Rossiniana. The skill and subtlety of the orchestration is once again a joy to hear but held in comparison to Respighi’s better known Rossini-inspired concoction La boutique fantasque, the results are less overtly successful. That said, this makes as convincing an argument for its cause as you are ever likely to hear and there are occasional passages of real delight, topped off with a lively Tarantella replete with echoes of La Danza.

A delight of a disc then and one which, it is to be hoped, heralds the further development of the burgeoning relationship between Naxos, Falletta and the Buffalo Phil.




Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, February 2008

Brilliance from Buffalo in Respighi’s rich orchestration

Naxos offers another group of rich and exotic Respighi works which demonstrate his extraordinary gift for brilliant orchestrations. The longest and most ambitious is Church Windows, though curiously the idea of linking the four pieces with great paintings only came after the work was finished. He chose The Flight into Egypt for the gentle opening piece, St Michael the Archangel for the vigorous second, The Matins of St Clare for the third and St Gregory the Great for the grandest piece, described by Edward Johnson as like a papal coronation in sound.

Brazilian Impressions stemmed from a visit that the composer made to Brazil. He planned a sequence of five pieces, but by 1928 he had completed only three, and left it at that for the first performance in 1928 in Rio. The first is a nocturne, “Tropical Night”, with fragments of dance rhythms hinted at in the sensuous textures. The second piece is a sinister picture of a snake farm Respighi visited, with hints of birdsong, while the final movement is a vigorous and colourful dance.

Rossiniana of 1925 is Respighi’s attempt to follow up the enormous success of La boutique fantasque. It’s also based on pieces by Rossini, this time using some of his piano trifles, Les riens. The first is a sort of barcarolle, the second a lament and the third an intermezzo featuring the celesta. In the finale he comes nearest to the ebullience of La boutique fantasque in a tarantella, but colourful as these pieces are, they hardly rival those in the earlier suite. Well worth hearing, though. The Buffalo Philharmonic under music director JoAnn Falletta is treated to warm and spectacular recording, apt for such exotica.



Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, January 2008

Respighi’s so-called Roman trilogy—Pini di Roma, Fontane di Roma and Feste Romane—are probably his best known and most played works; deservedly so, for they are brilliant orchestral showpieces, full of vigour and hot-blooded Mediterranean sentiment. Yet still so many of the composer’s other works don’t get an outing, so full marks to Naxos for their ongoing Respighi survey.

Recordings of Church Windows and Brazilian Impressions aren’t that plentiful either, but Geoffrey Simon and the Philharmonia taped spectacular accounts of these two works for Chandos back in 1984 (CHAN 8317). A quarter century later these are still remarkable performances, far superior to Ashkenazy’s recent Exton SACD in terms of interpretation and sound.

Church Windows began life as Tre preludi sopra melodie gregoriane (‘Three Piano Preludes on Gregorian Melodies’) published in 1922. Three years later Respighi decided to orchestrate them and add a fourth to make a symphonic suite. Curiously the descriptive ‘programme’ was only added afterwards, with the help of the composer’s friend Claudio Guastalla. The first movement—The Flight into Egypt—could have been lifted from the Pines of Rome, so unmistakable is Respighi’s musical fingerprint. There really is a sense of a lonely caravan making its way slowly across a barren landscape—a Middle Eastern Bydlo, perhaps—and the Buffalonians essay the gentle opening with commendable clarity and grace. That said, as the movement progresses one might wish for rather more ardour in those surging tunes.

Make no mistake the American band play seductively enough and they are well recorded to boot, but Simon adds impetus and electricity to the music without sacrificing detail or polish. 

Nothing quiet about the heavenly battle that erupts in St Michael the Archangel, with its blazing brass and thundering organ. The Naxos sound is marvellously weighty here—not always the case with recordings from this source—and the players really do let their hair down for once. The quieter horns and arpeggiated strings are well caught, while at the other extreme Satan’s banishment from Heaven—a triple forte tam-tam crash—produces a real frisson of excitement. By contrast the Philharmonia bring a febrile quality to the music, but Simon manages to control the temperature and keep it all from boiling over into bombast. That said, honours seem more evenly divided this time round, both bands playing with great precision and gusto.

The two performances are also well matched in the quieter, more contemplative music of The Matins of St Clare. If anything the Americans have the edge in terms of beauty and elegance of phrasing (just listen to that plainchant melody at 2:40, embellished by the harps). Very atmospheric indeed.

Equally impressive is the sheer weight and breadth of sound that Falletta coaxes from her orchestra in St Gregory the Great. There is pontifical grandeur aplenty and the lower strings in particular underpin the solemn proceedings with real authority. Arguably the Philharmonia maintain a greater sense of clarity and focus in the build up to the ecstatic ‘Alleluias’ of the finale, but their trans-Atlantic rivals are every bit as thrilling when it comes to that great climax.

Brazilian Impressions is not as high octane as Church Windows but it does boast some delightful music. Respighi and his wife embarked on a recital tour of Brazil in 1927 and the composer promised to provide a ‘Brazilian suite’ for their return visit in 1928. Pressure of work meant he could only produce three movements but the result is surprisingly genial music that understates rather than overplays the South American connection. This is particularly true of the opening nocturne, Tropical Night, which unfolds with Debussian languor. The Buffalo band really rise to the occasion here, with elegant and atmospheric playing, the music delectably sprung.

And while Simon and the Philharmonia generally articulate rhythms more clearly Falletta manages to make Butantan, a musical depiction of a Brazilian reptile farm, sound wonderfully sinuous. True, the British players come even closer to the composer’s marking of strisciante (‘slitheringly’) but to be honest there’s not much to separate the two performances. That said, the more flexible Philharmonia do have the edge in Song and Dance, where they shape and project rhythms with greater felicity.

It’s pretty much even at this point but then the Naxos recording pulls ahead with a refreshing performance of the orchestral suite Rossiniana. Transcribed from Rossini’s Les Riens (‘Trifles’), this four-movement work is lighter on its feet than either of the other pieces on the disc. Capri e Taormina combines the siciliana and barcarola to great effect, with some marvellous pizzicato playing from the strings and well-blended contributions from the brass. It is sunny music, full of warmth and local colour, yet it retains a certain grace and elegance throughout.

By contrast the gong-tormented Lamento is altogether darker, more brooding, with some characterful playing from the woodwinds. The martial bass drum is superbly dramatic, as is the sneering brass, but it is Falletta’s instinctive feel for the ebb and flow of this movement that really stands out here.

The third movement, a stately Intermezzo, has a surprisingly jaunty little melody coursing through it, while in the Tarantella—not as abandoned as one might expect—the orchestra really sound as if they are enjoying themselves, with spirited playing from all quarters. As always, one is astonished by Respighi’s gift for instrumental colour but it’s Falletta who is most deserving of praise here, maintaining a firm grip on the music while still allowing it to whirl and dance.

A worthy addition to the Naxos Respighi project but, most important, an impressive and entertaining disc as well.



John Sunier
Audiophile Audition, November 2007

Most music lovers probably have at least one copy of Respighi’s brilliant wide screen musical travelogues, The Pines and Fountains of Rome. They have been especially popular with audiophiles for their colorful orchestrations, along with the third work of the trilogy, Roman Festivals. Well, Respighi wrote some other similarly colorful orchestral impressions, and one of them which hasn’t received many recordings is Church Windows. It began life as a three-movement suite for solo piano and was later expanded to symphonic dimensions with a fourth movement added. The work does not depict four specific stained glass windows, just the mood and spirituality of the subject. The descriptive titles were actually added after Respighi composed the music. However, the second movement—St Michael the Archangel—seems very programmatic in its depiction of a war in heaven as St Michael slays the dragon. I recall what an audiophile treat its loud tam-tam stroke at the conclusion was on its first recording on a Mercury Living Presence LP.

The three Brazilian Impressions continue the composer’s gift for tone-painting, this time preserving in music a trip to Brazil he made with his wife. The first and longest movement describes a Tropical Night and is in a similar vein to many of Villa-Lobos’ works. The second movement quotes the fateful Dies irae theme as part of a musical picture of deadly poisonous snakes in a reptile zoo, and the finale is a boisterous Song and Dance set in a Carnaval atmosphere.

Respighi was fascinated by the many quirky piano miniatures of Rossini, and had first used some of them in his popular ballet La boutique fantasque. Later he again turned to the Rossini pieces in his four-movement Rossiniana, which conjures up the moods and impressions of Italian song and dance. The final movement is a breathless and infectious Tarantella.

I couldn’t locate either my LP version of the Mercury Living Presence Church Windows, but did find a Mercury series CD reissue of the Brazilian Impressions conducted by Antal Dorati. Even though by the time Wilma Cozart transferred these 1957 masters to CD some noticeable dropouts on one channel marred the first two movements of the Brazilian music, I have to say both the performance and the Mercury sonics had more snap and enthusiasm than the new Buffalo edition, and my aural recollection is that the same could probably be said for Church Windows. This music cries out for SACD release, but Naxos seems to have given up on that format.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2007

The highly coloured trilogy of Roman tone poems has become so popular that they overshadow everything else Respighi composed. That is regrettable when you discover his other pictorial works, and in particular the four symphonic poems that recreate the religious scenes depicted in Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows), its massive vision of St. Gregory the Great enhanced by the dramatic organ entry in a sonic spectacular. I fell in love with Brazilian Impressions in the early days of LP with in a vivid performance from the London Symphony and Antal Dorati. Respighi returned from a visit to Brazil with three scenes of life there, the second a chilling recollection of a snake farm with its poisonous creatures and a finale that recreating seductive South American dance rhythms. Respighi was, of course, the composer who compiled the ballet La Boutique Fantastique from Rossini’s music, and was also responsible for the pastiche, Rossiniana, using the composer’s ‘piano trifles’. It is a delightful score much akin to ballet and lightweight in texture. JoAnn Falletta and her Buffalo Philharmonic have received much critical acclaim in recent times, this disc surely helpful in clinching their North American premiere league status. Never rushed, Falletta’s tempos allow the music to expand in the church vista, while in the charm of Rossiniana the woodwind playing a particular joy.






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