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Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, December 2009

Ildebrando Pizzetti was a refined, conservative composer who, besides operas, wrote much instrumental music as well. His Concerto dell’estate (1928), Three Symphonic Preludes to Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex (1904), the Prelude to Clitennestra (1964), Three Pieces for Orchestra: La Festa delle Panatenee (1936), all music worth hearing, are competently played by the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra under Myron Michailidis (8.572013)…

Arthur S. Leonard
Leonard Link, October 2009

Two of the works on the recording are billed as world premiere recordings: A suite of three pieces for orchestra from incidental music to Greek dramas, grouped under the name The Feast of the Panathenaea, and the Prelude to Pizzetti’s opera Clytemnestra. Works available in alternative recordings are Concerto dell’estate, and the three Preludes for Sophocle’s tragedy Oedipus the King. All of this music sounds very much like Respighi, with the same rich, warm orchestral sound, and the same practice of building to huge climaxes pulling in the full weight of a large romantic orchestra. The recording sounds excellent to me, and the music is enchanting, if not so memorable in terms of the themes and their working out as Respighi’s Roman Trilogy. But anybody searching for some splendid-sounding romantic music in gorgeous performances can’t go wrong with this budget Naxos release. I applaud their initiative in seeking out unusual repertory and finding good, underrecorded groups to perform it.

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, September 2009

The Concerto dell’estate (Summer Concerto) is a bright and sunny work—a kind of Concerto for orchestra—full of vivid colours, virtuoso instrumentation and packed with good tunes. But this is a very languid summer experience. The tempo of the music is never really very fast—I suppose that it must be too hot for rushing round. The slow movement seems to have more than a tinge of Beethoven about it (!) and the finale contains moments of darkness in the midst of the jollity. Certainly this is most unexpected. It is a beautiful piece, expertly crafted, with clear, clean textures and none of the orchestral excess which can make Respighi sometimes tiresome…a fine achievement as a performance.

The Preludes to L’edipo Re di Sofocle…are highly dramatic pieces, full of heavy emotion and spectacular orchestration…The Preludio: Clitennestra is a dramatic and nervy affair. Lots of tension and drive. I wonder if the opera lives up to the promise of this overture?

Finally, La Festa delle Panatenee (The Feast of the Panathenaea), is a suite made from incidental music to a theatrical production. These are much lighter than the rest of the programme, and, oddly, there’s more than a whiff of both Carl Nielsen and Vaughan Williams in folksong mode! It’s a delightful work and makes a suitably entertaining finish to an interesting disk.

Despite my, very slight, complaint about the sound, this is a real must-have…and this is a really good introduction to this neglected composer.

Barry Brenesal
Fanfare, September 2009

These performances are the first I’ve heard by the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra. They sound like a strong second-rate ensemble, with good playing across the board both among soloists (the unnamed violinist in the third of the three Per l’Edipo re di Sofocle preludes deserves especial praise) and sections. Blending is moderately effective, …Michailidis leads committed readings, notable for their color and dynamic range… © 2009 Fanfare Read complete review

Phillip Scott
Fanfare, September 2009

The main work in this collection is the Concerto dell’ estate (Summer Concerto), the only one written specifically for concert use. It is more or less a concerto for orchestra in three movements, comprising a sunny opening, a lyrical and tender slow movement, and a dance-like finale based on rhe rhythm of the galiarda. Mediterranean warmth permeates all three movements: Pizzetti loved the Italian countryside, not only for its natural calm and beauty but also for its unbroken connection to antiquity. Leaving aside his operatic work, this Concerto could be regarded as Pizzetti’s masterpiece.

[Michailidis’] is a first-class performance of an utterly delightful work. © 2009 Fanfare Read complete review

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, July 2009

Unlike the grandiose symphonic creations of Respighi (1879–1936), Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880–1968) wrote music of great refinement closer to that of Malipiero (1882–1973) and Casella (1883–1947). That’s not to imply it’s devoid of drama. On the contrary, the orchestral selections presented here are full of emotion in keeping with Pizzetti’s stated belief that music should express life in action.

The Concerto dell-estate (Summer Concerto) dating from 1928 is an undiscovered Italian late romantic masterpiece, which the composer understandably considered his most important work. In three-movement and for a large orchestra, the concertante parts are for a variety of instrumental soloists and groups. But the emphasis is on tone color rather than virtuosity, and the mood conjured up is one of bucolic summer nature music . No wonder Pizzetti referred to it as his “pastoral symphony.”

In the first “Morning” movement one can picture some idyllic countryside with rolling green hills, colorful red barns and all sorts of farmyard animals going about their matinal routines. The activity slows as the sun beats down and the temperature rises. Then an afternoon storm clears the air, and the day ends with joyful thematic remembrances of how it all began. The following “Nocturnal” movement finds the composer in a rustic introspective frame of mind. There’s a neoclassical simplicity about the “Galliard and Finale” that ends the work. The peasant-like dance with which it begins transforms into an impressionistic landscape bathed in gorgeous Pizzettian twilight. Don’t miss out on this one!

All of the remaining selections on this disc…have ties to ancient Greece. The triptych, Tre Preludii Sinfonici per L’Edipo Re di Sofocle (Three Symphonic Preludes for Sophocle’s Oedipus Rex), was written in 1904 for a Milan production of the play, and very effectively capture it’s emotional highs. The first reflects the misery of the Theban people suffering from a terrible plague. The second is highly agitated and in keeping with such psychologically supercharged concepts as patricide and incest. The last conjures up the world of tragedy and darkness blind Oedipus finds himself in. Although there may be a tiny glimmer of hope at the very end, this must rank with some of the most harrowing music written for the theater.

The program continues with the prelude to the composer’s last opera Clitennestra (Clytemnestra), which was written between 1962 and 1964. It’s an ideal example of his ability to come up with highly dramatic music without resorting to the chromatic and orchestral excesses exhibited by many other late romantic composers (see the newsletter of 20 November 2006).

The disc concludes with three more incidental selections written for the 1936 Festa delle Panatence (The Feast of the Panathenaea) held at the Greek temples in Paestum. This was a staged series of open-air recitations based on the writings of Homer, Sophocles and several other Classical Greek authors. Pizzetti had made a study of ancient music, and while no one has any idea what it actually sounded like, he incorporated some of the modes known to exist back then into what we have here.

The lighthearted opening prelude is quite wind oriented, and one can imagine the flute as a modern day representation of the aulos so often pictured in Classical Greek art. Pentatonic and modal references abound in The “Dance for the Offering of the Peplos to Pallas Athena.” Alternately slow and fast, there’s a Delphic ambiguity about it that’s captivating. The final “March of the Procession” is appropriately ceremonious, and with encouragement from the brass, builds to a rousing conclusion. It ends this exquisite disc in cinematic fashion, but only in the best sense of that term.

It seems quite appropriate that a Greek orchestra, the Thessaloniki Sate Symphony Orchestra, is represented here, considering all the Hellenic associations present. Having appeared on only two other CDs, chances are you’ve never heard this group. But it’s a class act, and under conductor Myron Michailidis the performances are technically perfect, highly colorful and full of enthusiasm for this unusual repertoire.

The recordings are very good from the soundstage perspective, and recreate a convincing virtual image of the orchestra in a warm venue. The instrumental timbre is natural enough, but those liking crystalline highs may find the sound a bit rolled off for their tastes.

Robert R. Reilly, May 2009

It is a complete mystery to me how the new Naxos recording of Ildebrando Pizzetti’s Concerto dell’estate (1928) could be the first one in 40 years and the only one on CD. It is one of the most beautiful, evocative pieces of Italian orchestral music in the 20th century. It is right up there with Respighi and Malipiero. When you hear it, you will wonder, too, and be grateful for Naxos’s enterprise in getting the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra, under Myron Michailidis, to record it, along with several other Pizzetti pieces, which are receiving their recording premieres. The translation of the concerto’s name is “summer music.” What could be more fitting for this pastoral symphony? It’s magic time on Naxos 8.572013.

Uncle Dave Lewis, May 2009

This…is a riotously colorful disc of orchestral music that is splendidly well performed and benefits to a great extent from the discipline and respect for the material imposed by the conductor, not to mention the diligent Greek musicologists who worked to raise this effort. Their interest was not in Pizzetti the Italian composer, but for his significant interest in Greek subjects; ergo the inclusion of the startling (for its time) Tre Preludii Sinfonici per L’Edipo Re di Sofocle (1904) and the two world-premiere recordings: Clitennestra: Tragedia per in un preludio e due atti (1962–1964) and La Festa delle Panatenee (1936). Concerto dell’estate (1928) is included as the main work mainly due to the opportunity afforded by its long absence from the catalog; long regarded as Pizzetti’s finest orchestral piece, one would have to traverse back some four decades to find the most recent recording of it made prior to this one.

One reason for Pizzetti’s relative neglect is that it is hard to discern with twenty first century ears what made his music “modern” in the first place. Both the concerto and La Festa fall halfway stylistically between Respighi and neo-classicism, whereas the early Tre Preludii Sinfonici falls somewhere between the music of Busoni and Richard Strauss. It is true that Pizzetti was never able to shake his devotion to post-romanticism, no matter how far outside the box he thought about his music; Clitimnestra sounds like something from the 1910s, rather than the 1960s, when it was written. However, for some listeners that should be a plus, rather than a hindrance, and if the interest is there, hindered not should you be when it comes to Naxos’ Pizzetti: Concerto dell’estate.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2009

Apart from the colourful tone-poems of Respighi, we hear little today of the large quantity or symphonic music composed in Italy during the early 20th century. Even the masterpieces of Malipiero and Casella are seldom performed in international concert halls, while the output of Ildebrando Pizzetti has all but vanished. Born in 1880, it was in his lifeblood to compose opera, and from the outset Pizzetti became part of the Italian faction who decried the way that music was progressing, and lodged himself as a counter-reactionary. Well into his maturity, when the Concerto dell’estate (Summer Concerto) was composed in 1928, his style harks back to the end of the nineteenth century, full of lyric grace, and sheer beauty of sound. By then he had composed only a handful of concert works, the earliest published score, L’Edipo Re di Sofocle, coming from 1904and cast in the shape of three symphonic preludes. Those take us even further back in style, and are not ‘stand alone’ preludes but make a nicely contrasted trio. Receiving its world première recording. La Festa delle Panatenee contains three pieces composed in 1936 as incidental music to readings from Greek writers, There is a stated input from Gregorian chant, yet it will be the readily pleasing film-style content that gives most satisfaction. The disc is completed by the short prelude to his last opera completed in 1964, Clitennestra (Clytemnestra), based on the bloody story from Greek mythology. It is a potent, and, by Pizzetti standards, a modern score. The Thessaloniki State Symphony, with Myron Michailidis conducting, sounds a most useful orchestra captured in effective sound engineering.

David Hurwitz, January 2009

Ildebrando Pizzetti’s Concerto dell’estate of 1928 (really a three-movement symphony) is one of the most attractive of all early 20th-century Italian orchestral works. It hasn’t been recorded since Gardelli did it for Decca some 40 years ago, and this new version is most welcome. While Myron Michailidis chooses virtually identical tempos in the outer movements, the central nocturne runs a bit slower (but not duller) than the earlier version, at some gain in atmosphere. The recording balances, which place the woodwinds and harps relatively forward, also suit the work very well. It’s a beautiful performance, well played and atmospheric.

I have a sentimental attachment to the Oedipus Rex Symphonic Preludes: this was the very first work that I played as a percussionist with the Johns Hopkins Symphony Orchestra in my undergraduate days, and it introduced me to Pizzetti. To be honest, the cymbal part didn’t give me much to do, but it did offer me the opportunity to simply listen to a very beautiful piece that, like the Concerto dell’estate, deserves far greater currency than it enjoys. It was recorded relatively recently by Vänskä for Hyperion, quite well too, but this version is just as good, with confident horn playing and powerful climaxes.

The remaining two works receive their recording premieres. Pizzetti was basically a gentle, lyrical composer, but he could get his dander up quite effectively: witness the five-minute prelude to Clitennestra. Composed in the 1960s just before his death, you’d never know it from the harmonic style—it’s just as attractive and approachable as the Oedipus Rex music of some 60 years earlier. La Feste delle Panatenee is another tryptich that, like the work just mentioned, takes ancient Greece as its inspiration. Less somber than its predecessor, it concludes with an imposing procession that could use a touch more heft from the brass and a less prominent snare drum--but as with all of these performances conductor Michailidis and the Thessaloniki State Symphony certainly do the music justice. Strongly recommended.

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