David's Review Corner
, December 2009
Described as ‘the most original and inventive Italian composer of his generation’, Gian Francesco Malipiero’s prodigious output included seventeen symphonies. At the age of thirty he made a massive gesture of self-criticism and destroyed his mass of already completed scores, only in his late forties beginning work on the eleven numbered symphonies. Though by that time he was seen as a modernist, much of his music remained in the style of the big romantic poems dressed up with a thin veneer of modernity. The Seventh dates from 1948 and carries the subtitle ‘delle canzoni’ (of the songs), but is best regarded as an abstract work, flowing melodic material not being its strongest point. The opening allegro has a passing similarity with British composers of the early 20th century, and is the most attractive of the score’s four movements, the scherzo being busy but without the rhythmic attractions that would make it immediately attractive, while the concluding lento is rather somber until its closing heroic stance. The Sinfonia in un tempo dates from 1950, and is a misnomer, only its continuity—which almost extends to half an hour—concealing a clear four movement structure. It is a dogged work that carries no happiness, and points towards the bitterness that entered the last period of his life, fully demonstrated in the 1962 Sinfonia per Antigendia. Described on the discs sleeve as his ‘most inscrutable symphony’, its four relatively short movements take Malipiero into the world of atonality. The name and story is taken from the musician of ancient times who played the piffero—an early instrument here given to the ever-present piccolo. The disc comes from recordings issued on the Marco Polo label, this being the fourth and penultimate disc in the complete cycle, and if you are just coming to the composer, I would firstly go to the more readily attractive Third and Fourth Symphonies (8.570878) . The Moscow Symphony has here been sailing in unchartered territory and not always able to mask its unfamiliarity, but the guiding hand of conductor, Antonio de Almeida, produces some lovely moments, the woodwind most persuasive. Reliable engineering.