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John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, September 2010

People didn’t just neglect the music of Italian organist and composer Carlo Giorgio Garofalo (1886–1962) in his own lifetime, practically nobody knows him even today. He wrote a ton of sacred compositions, heard in churches and cathedrals throughout Italy in his time but hardly anywhere outside the country and hardly anywhere, period, since. He also wrote quite a lot of secular works as well, like the two pieces on this album, most of them never getting performed, let alone recorded. The present disc aims to help rectify that situation.

Garofalo’s Violin Concerto sounds like something written in the nineteenth rather than the twentieth century. It’s a throwback to Mendelssohn and Brahms...Still, there is a power and grandeur about the Concerto’s first movement, and a gypsy feel at times as well. However, while it is charming, to be sure, it’s nothing you can fully pin down or grab onto, kind of like elusive wisps of semi-familiar tunes. The same might be said of the serene Andante and the bouncy, up-tempo finale. You’d swear you’ve heard it all before, and then the thought, like the music, quickly fades from memory. Nevertheless, violinist Sergei Standler, maestro Joel Spiegelman, and the New Moscow Symphony Orchestra (an ensemble brought together in 1999 by the Modern Times Group of Sweden to enhance and support the Scandinavian broadcast company) try their best to do the music justice.

More important, perhaps, is Garofalo’s Romantic Symphony, which Spiegelman resurrected and saved from oblivion in 1994 with only its second complete public performance. The first public performance had been almost eighty years earlier. On this disc we find the première recordings of both the Romantic Symphony and the Violin Concerto.

Anyway, the Symphony didn’t get its “Romantic” title for nothing. It could well be something by Brahms or Bruckner, although unlike the work of those classic composers, Garofalo’s piece is entertaining without being in any way profound or even particularly affecting, despite its vaguely nostalgic tone...the Andante and Scherzo ...are at the heart of the music, containing some of its most-memorable melodies. The Andante can be especially enchanting in a lush, spacious, highly emotional way. Indeed, the Andante is really the best part of the Symphony: lovely yet dramatic, never too light yet never taking itself too seriously, either (at least not under Spiegelman’s direction). It has a haunting quality that makes a listener want to return to it again.

Furthermore, one can understand from listening to the Scherzo why his rival, Ottorino Respighi, may have tried to repress Garofalo’s music. There are certain similar, descriptive, tone-poem characteristics to it that may have worried the more-famous composer. The Romantic Symphony ends by allowing every instrument of the orchestra to have its day in a rather melodramatic but gripping fashion, finishing up as it began, in the loftiest possible manner. This is big-scale music that isn’t afraid to let it be known.

Originally recorded by MTG in 1999 and released on the Marco Polo label, the music now comes to us on a newly reissued, low-priced Naxos CD. The sound is squarely in the Naxos tradition, too, being perfectly serviceable, moderately distanced, with a somewhat soft overall response...In the Romantic Symphony in particular the acoustic setting is deeper and the sound more realistically spread out than in the Violin Concerto, although both works are pleasantly listenable.

Nick Barnard
MusicWeb International, September 2010

Two works are offered here—neither have opus numbers or dates of composition although the symphony did receive its first—and only complete performance prior to this Russian revival—in 1915. The disc opens with the Violin Concerto. The soloist here is Sergei Stadler. He won the 1982 Tchaikovsky competition at the age of 20 and his pedigree is not in doubt. Throughout he plays with great attack and fervour and succeeds in surmounting the many technical hurdles Garofalo puts in his way...there are several passages of rather beautiful [orchestral] playing—particularly from the solo horn and oboe.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2010

Carlo Giorgio Garofalo is a long-forgotten name, though the conductor, Joel Spiegelman, makes a plea that he will once again be recognised as a major voice in 20th century music. Born in Rome in 1886, he was trained as an organist and made his career in that field at the main synagogue in Rome. As a composer he was known parochially in the field of sacred music, but he also wrote secular scores including an unperformed opera.That he was at home in the organ loft is immediately apparent in the Romantic Symphony, the writing much akin to an orchestration of an organ score. Stylistically he was influenced by German composers of the late Romantic era, the thematic material falling pleasantly on the ear. Moments of a dramatic inclination soon pass, and after a slow movement of passing interest, the whole work moves up a gear for the bouncy and chattering scherzo. As with long forgotten symphonies, it is the finale that lacks a memorable quality, Garofalo returning to the organ loft for his textures. The Violin Concerto I find of a very different ilk, the highly active first movement requiring an extremely agile soloist. Sadly the accompanying booklet—my sole reference to Garofalo—tells us nothing of the work, but it seems a more mature score. Hints of Max Bruch and Dvořák, with a passing nod towards Glazunov. Yet not a patchwork score, but three cohesive movements with a big finale. All the performances have the imprint of detailed rehearsal, Sergei Stadler being the extremely nimble soloist. First released on Marco Polo in 2002, the sound quality is pleasing with the violin and orchestra in a realistic balance.

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