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Christopher Howell
MusicWeb International, April 2012

Martucci’s First Piano Concerto came as a revelation to me. And yet, it should not have, since this was not the first time I’d heard the piece. As performed here, it unfolds with a leisurely ease, a perfect child of Italian pre-D’Annunzio decadence.

In technical terms, this is created by an orchestral and pianistic attack that is full and rounded in fortes, never brittle, by gently caressing the pianos and by allowing the lyrical lines to blossom in a fulsome yet tender way. What emerges is an unusually proportioned concerto, its two outer movements with dramatic leanings that are only a backdrop to more intimate confidences and, conversely, a gentle slow movement that is a framework to a more mercurial central section. All this works, I should add, because the conductor and the truly excellent pianist interpret the piece as with one mind.

…Pasini releases the operatic throb, providing a frisson that a more tightly controlled delivery would have lacked. As proof that she is fully in control of what she is doing, hear how she opens the second song, “Cantava’l ruscello”, with an almost childlike clarity and practically no vibrato. She uses such means to differentiate, in the next song, between those parts of the text in italics and those that are not. The penultimate song contains, starting from “O dolce notte”, one of the most glorious lyrical effusions in Italian song, and Pasini matches it with lusciously soaring lines. At the other extreme, the regretful, intimate last song is a model of vocal control, capping a performance that I would describe as masterly, even great. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Stephen Francis Vasta
MusicWeb International, November 2011

Gesualdo Coggi plays the block chords with deep, resonant tone—stunningly reproduced by the Naxos engineers—and brings off the various rippling figurations with dexterous clarity. He gets first-rate support from Francesco La Vecchia and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma. The ensemble is strong in all departments, but the strings, tonally vibrant and trimly phrased, are particularly beautiful. Read complete review

Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, November 2009

MARTUCCI, G.: Orchestral Music (Complete), Vol. 3 (Rome Symphony, La Vecchia) - Piano Concerto No. 1 / La canzone dei ricordi 8.570931

MARTUCCI, G.: Orchestral Music (Complete), Vol. 2 (Rome Symphony, La Vecchia) - Symphony No. 2 / Theme and Variations / Tarantella / Gavotta 8.570930

Giuseppe Martucci (1856–1909) is a composer of no little success during his lifetime. Hailed as one of the premiere pianists of the age, he was also named the conductor of the Orchestra Napoletana, widely considered to be the best in Italy at the time. He tirelessly sought to expand the repertory and introduced many works by the best romantic composers of the age, including the Italian debuts of Tristan und Isolde and Götterdämmerung, as well as British and French music. He was acknowledged as the leading Italian composer of the second half of the nineteenth century.

Naxos has embarked on a complete orchestral music series of which these are the second [8.570930] and third [8.570931] volumes. Martucci would certainly be pleased, as these performances are outstanding, played to perfection by the Rome Symphony and captured is excellent sound. The First Piano Concerto was not published until 95 years after it was written, and the composer evidently didn’t think much about it. Perhaps that is because it is so redolent of Mendelssohn and Chopin in places. However, even here we are given hints of the vast originality of this man’s music that would become so evident in just a few years. The one composer that kept popping into my mind was Sibelius; there are many moments of the stark austere beauty that so makes the Finnish composer’s output that I hear in snippets all over this wonderful concerto.

La canzone del ricordi (“The Song of Remembrance”) is a terrific orchestral song cycle (though only orchestrated eleven years after it was created) that seems miles beyond its time. As an orchestral cycle only Berlioz was writing anything comparable at the moment with his Les Nuits d’été, and Martucci takes his time to explore the textual nuances in each of these poems with delicacy and depth. I have only one other recording of this, that of Riccardo Muti and the La Scala Orchestra on Sony (with a wonderful performance of the Second Piano Concerto) sung by Mirella Freni. To my mind, though I do think that Muti’s faster tempos (in all but one of the numbers) are more in character, the singing of  mezzo Silvia Pasini easily equals and even tops that of Freni, well past her prime at the time.
The second disc [8.570930] contains Martucci’s masterpiece Symphony No. 2. It was written in the last ten years of his life and took him over five years to complete. Toscanini took it up early on and remained a fervent advocate for the piece. The work is preciously imaginative with one of the most intriguing scherzos you will ever hear. The disc is rounded out with a fine Theme and Variations for Piano and Orchestra that is Martucci’s only other work for piano with orchestra—and it took a while to reach this format—while the two remaining orchestral works are orchestrations of later piano pieces, each of great originality and attraction. This is a not-to-be-missed series.

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, November 2009

The current release—Volume 3 in Naxos’s complete survey of Martucci’s orchestral music—contains works that are not new to the recorded catalog…So let me begin with La canzone dei ricordi (“The Songs of Memories”), which seems to be one of Martucci’s more enduring works…The poems, as can be deduced from the work’s title, are about dreams recollected, mostly of longed-for, but alas, only imagined loves. More interesting are Martucci’s formal design and musical content. Each song ends in a different key from which it started. The song that follows it begins in the key in which the previous song ended. Thus, by the end, we have returned to the key and the poem with which the cycle began. Stylistically, Martucci’s indebtedness to Wagner is unmistakable, but it’s a Wagner tinted—some might say tainted—by some of Puccini’s more pastel orchestral touches that one hears in La bohème. Martucci undoubtedly knew the opera, which premiered in 1896, two years before his orchestration of La canzone dei ricordi.

Freni was 60 when she recorded the Martucci with Muti in 1995. Age had added a degree of weight to a soprano voice that in its youth was lighter and more lyric in character. I’m not suggesting she would have made a good Brunhilde, but her projection in these songs comes across as sounding more Wagnerian than does Silvia Pasini’s delivery on the new Naxos. Nor by any means is it just a matter of voice. Freni dispatches the cycle in just over 28 minutes, compared to Pasini’s drawn-out 33:50. The result is that Freni’s reading has tremendous dramatic thrust, frequently sounding like an agitated Brunhilde railing in high dudgeon against Wotan, while Pasini sounds more like Mimi in her “Mi chiamano Mimì” aria from La bohème.

If my description has led you to believe that I prefer Freni to Pasini in this song cycle, you’d be wrong. Martucci may have been a Wagner champion, but he was not Wagner; and Pagliera’s poems, to which Martucci set his music, are not about mythic warriors, heroes, and the downfall of the gods. They’re about dreams remembered in that half-conscious state of waking. Pasini, I believe, comes closer to capturing the more impressionistic character of the poetry and the music; and Francesco La Vecchia has under him in the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma a better ensemble than Muti did at the time in his La Scala Philharmonic.

Since I have no other recordings of the Piano Concerto against which to compare Gesualdo Coggi’s performance, I can be brief. If you love big, Romantic piano concertos, Martucci’s D-Minor Concerto is right up there with some of the best of them. Echoes of Schumann, Grieg, and Brahms’s First Concerto (his Second hadn’t been completed yet when Martucci wrote his score in 1878) reverberate throughout the score, and maybe even a hint every now and then of Tchaikovsky (assuming Martucci had heard it in its original 1875 version prior to starting work on his own Concerto). Gorgeous music, gorgeous playing, gorgeous recording; this one is not to be missed.

Classic FM, August 2009

Naxos continues its championing of Martucci by coupling his Piano Concerto No.1 with the only major vocal work from his maturity. The Concerto is the most successful. Coggi plays with sonority, panache and conviction, accompanied by an orchestra which has just as effectively got under the music’s skin. In La canzone dei ricordi, Pasini’s vocal tone matches the music’s languorous beauty.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2009

You could well believe that the Italian composer, Giuseppe Martucci, was simply composing in the style of Rachmaninov, Mahler and Richard Strauss, but then you find his works predate theirs. A biography of Martucci will be found in my March review, so I will only remind that his early career was as a pianist, the substantial three-movement score for the First Concerto probably written for his own use. It is big and bold and dates from 1878, not long after Rachmaninov’s birth, and is full of those long sweeping passages virtuosos so enjoy. Apparently he thought little of it and it was only published long after his death. La canzone dei recordi (Songs of Remembrance) started life in 1887 before their sad reflective songs came from Strauss and Mahler. There are fleeting moments of happiness, but it essentially a scene of nostalgia the voice floating above an emotive orchestral backdrop. Indeed the whole disc is a most rewarding experience that any lover of the late-Romantic era will find irresistible. Gesualdo Coggi proves a forceful exponent of the concerto, and the much experienced, Silvia Pasini, is the seductively voiced mezzo. A couple of moments when the orchestral intonation is a bit suspect, but, as with previous volumes, they respond with enthusiasm to the conductor, Francesco La Vecchia. High quality sound engineering.

James Leonard, June 2009

The first two volumes devoted to the late Romantic Italian composer Giuseppe Martucci’s orchestral works, with Francesco La Vecchia and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma, were roughly aesthetically equal to the earlier digital series of the works with Francesco D’Avalos and the Philharmonia. La Vecchia’s third volume, though, is far superior to D’Avalos’ version of the same pieces, the Piano Concerto No. 1, and La canzone dei ricordi for voice and orchestra, for the simple reason that the soloists are better. Here pianist Gesualdo Coggi has brilliant tone, a virtuoso technique and a vivacious feel for rhythm, all things that D’Avalos’ soloist Francesco Caramiello lacked, and Coggi’s sunny interpretation is much better suited to Martucci’s Mendelssohnian Concerto than Caramiello’s more dourly Brahmsian reading. In La canzone dei ricordi, the race is tighter, with mezzo-soprano Silvia Pasini’s richer tone and more dramatic interpretation slightly ahead of soprano Rachel Yakar’s more focused tone and more lyrical account. Clearly in front are La Vecchia and the Rome orchestra, who turn in more graciously genial accompaniment for Coggi and Pasini than D’Avalos and the Philharmonia do with their heavier, more Germanic accompaniment.

Naxos’ digital sound is clear, crisp and colorful, though slightly recessed.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2009

The third in this complete edition of Martucci’s orchestral works features a most likeable Piano Concerto and a song cycle that is a real discovery. In my March review of the previous volume [Martucci Orchestral Music Vol 2, 8.570930], you will find a composer biography which details his role as pianist and conductor, the concerto being written when he was just twenty-two and for his own premiere performance. The notes with the disc comment on the influence of Mendelssohn and Chopin, but here Martucci was very much in his own man, using a generalised Germanic style and arriving at a powerful and personable score. It opens with a long orchestral introduction that gives way to a dramatic solo part. After a very tender slow movement, the finale foresees Rachmaninov, and bristles with fast bravura. You would say that the song cycle, La canzone dei ricordi (Songs of Remembrance), is simply a mix of Puccini, Richard Strauss and an element of Mahler, apart from the fact it was written long before they had composed anything of comparable magnitude. In its original format for mezzo and piano it dates from 1887 and was superbly orchestrated eleven years later. There is some debt to Wagner, whose operas he premiered in Italy, the work telling of love and the sadness that it can bring, its seventh and final song bringing the score to a melancholy serenity. I know how easy it is to get carried away when you have a musical discovery, but it is the most interesting song cycle I have come across for many years. The orchestral playing throughout is much more assured than is previous volumes; the young pianist, Gesualdo Coggi, is a big red-blooded performer, and the Italian, Silvia Pasini, finds the right degree of joy and anguish, though I wish the engineers had resisted the temptation of loading the voice with reverberation. Otherwise the sound is very good.

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