, March 2011
The Naxos Italian Classics series has produced some fine discs. These include top-notch versions of Alfredo Casella’s First and Second symphonies with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma under Francesco La Vecchia. That revival of interest will surely extend to the works of Malipiero, a contemporary of Casella’s and also a founder member of the Corporazione delle Nuove Musiche. The disc under review is not new—it was issued on the now defunct Marco Polo label in the late-1990s—and the music is hardly core repertoire. All the more surprising, as the pieces recorded here are really rather good. Not only that, the playing of the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana is very idiomatic, too.
The three fragments from Malipiero’s opera Tre commedie goldoniane have an open-faced, genial air; La bottega da caffè is a perky little number, underpinned by some delightful, burbling rhythms, the out-of-sorts Sior Todero characterised by low, rather comical brass. As vignettes go, these are lightly drawn, and all credit to conductor Christian Benda for bringing out the many subtleties of colour and rhythm. The latter is a key element here, the molto perpetuo of La baruffe chiozzotte discreetly done. It’s an odd blend of chamber-like scoring and gaudy effects—the bells for instance— but it hangs together well and never outstays its welcome. Most entertaining.
The short, post-war ballet Stradivario, centred on a stolen Strad that comes to life and dances with a variety of other instruments, is surprisingly light on its feet. Violinist Tamas Major is a little thin-sounding as the protagonist, but it’s the boisterous bass drum—well caught—that threatens to steal the show. There’s plenty of dynamic range here; the orchestra is convincingly balanced, woodwind solos rise naturally from the mix and the brass are thrilling in their brisk, repeated figures. There’s an abiding sense of fun in this music, epitomised by the smile-inducing march for flutes and drums. A real tonic, this.
Malipiero’s interest in Italian composers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries dates back to his youth, where he spent hours copying the music of Monteverdi and other early masters. This fascination, shared by his compatriots Casella and Respighi, is most evident in La Cimarosiana, inspired by the music of Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801).But it’s not just a fastidious, dry little exercise in retro-writing; for instance, sandwiched between the elegant Andante grazioso and Non troppo mosso is an uncouth, streetwise Allegro moderato that’s both bizarre and entirely in keeping with Malipero’s well-developed sense of mischief and whimsy. Make no mistake though, the period features are skilfully done and the music is very well played; the limpid Larghetto is especially attractive.
As a Venetian himself, Malipiero would have had a special affection for the music of Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1554/57-1612), whose distinctive style is joyfully conveyed in the bracing Gabrieliana. The up-front OSI brass are very bright indeed—brazen, even—which seems entirely appropriate in this context. That said, it’s all a tad fatiguing at times. Not as relaxed and congenial as the other items, perhaps, but it does reveal a more studied, serious aspect of the composer’s musical persona.
This is a most rewarding reissue, and a tantalising glimpse into Malipiero’s endearing sound-world...if this collection piques your interest don’t hesitate to give them a try.