Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?  
Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Christopher Howell
MusicWeb International, March 2012

The performance here carries conviction.

The impression created by this Naxos series of 20th Century Italian composers is that the performances offered by the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma under Francesco La Vecchia are very carefully prepared with an attention to nuance, texture and balance that we didn’t get from the live RAI performances that were for many years, in their not-infrequent re-broadcasts, our only way of knowing much of this music.

This series undoubtedly offers reliable performances of a more extensive selection of Casella than has been available till now. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Laurence Vittes
Audiophile Audition, February 2012

Naxos’ world premiere recording of Notte di maggio deserves a Grammy…It’s a surrealistic dream of beauty which, in the moody Roman performance has a nightmarish quality that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp ought to hear.

The Cello Concerto, also in its only recording, is an altogether more unconventional and yet no less splendid work, something which cellists would kill to play and audiences love to hear: Alternating mad, whirling energy with long lyrical passages that will appeal to music lovers who love to drench themselves in yoga. The sound of this and Scarlattiana, restored in the OSR Studios in Rome, is fine… © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Henry Fogel
Fanfare, May 2011

This is another highly successful installment in Naxos’s Alfredo Casella series, and it demonstrates the wide range of styles in which Casella composed. Some have criticized the diversity of his musical languages, but there is a consistent integrity about all of his music that runs through everything. There is no sense that he is applying different stylistic approaches because he is trying to fit in with some appropriate or critically accepted style. But rather he comes across as a composer who heard and was influenced by a wide range of music, and was equally comfortable in taking different approaches.

The most modernistic piece here is the setting for mezzo-soprano and orchestra of Carducci’s poem Notte di maggio (A Night in May). Composed in 1913, shortly after he attended the infamous world premiere of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps, Casella first denied the influence of that music: “I can honestly say that I would have written Notte di maggio even if I had never heard or seen any Stravinsky scores,” he said. But by the 1930s he wrote in his autobiography of the influence of The Rite. But this is no copy—there is a transparency and delicacy in the scoring, and a vein of melody even in this rather tough piece, that bears Casella’s own fingerprints. He was quite proud of being one of the first composers to write, in this work, a 12-note chord. Olivia Andreini sings the music with conviction, though I would have preferred a voice with a bit more warmth in the tone.

The Cello Concerto dates from 1934–35, and is a more easily accessible work. The slow movement is absolutely gorgeous (even the composer said “The Cello Concerto’s central aria seems to me one of my best melodies,” and any composer would be proud to have written it). The finale is a virtuoso piece that Casella, tongue-in-cheek, called “the flight of the improved bumblebee.” Andrea Noferini plays the work with style, sensitivity, and virtuosic flair, and it seems to me to be an extremely strong work with real staying power.

Scarlattiana is an arrangement for piano and chamber orchestra of what David Gallagher’s excellent notes describe as “over 80 different themes” from Domenico Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas. Casella adds just a hint of Milhaud-like jazz without violating the original, and the result is a delightful confection.

The orchestral contribution is very strong, with no sense of this being a dutiful read-through. The conductor and orchestra throughout seem really into the music. Some may find the stylistic diversity on this disc rather wide for their tastes, but there is no requirement that one listen to all three works at one sitting. Each, taken on its own, is a gem. Good, natural, well-balanced sound rounds out the disc.

David W Moore
American Record Guide, March 2011

Andreini is a powerful mezzo.

The 1935 Cello Concerto is a work of breadth and poetry…Noferini plays it with style.

Scarlattiana of 1926 is for piano and orchestra. You plays it well, and La Vecchia and his Romans are excellent. This is a series to be invested in.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Robert R. Reilly, November 2010

More Italian revelations deserving your attention come from Naxos, which has already issued recordings of two of Alfredo Casella’s three engaging symphonies. A new release offers his rhythmically driven, highly energetic, but melodically lyrical Cello Concerto, accompanied by the sheerly delightful Scarlattiana for piano and orchestra, based upon melodies from Scarlatti’s harpsichord sonatas. While this budget CD (8.572416) has some stiff competition from much more expensive Chandos releases, it also contains the world-premiere recording of the magical Notte de maggio (A Night in May) for voice and orchestra, deliciously drenched in atmospheric mystery. Casella predicted, “You’ll love the poetic effect,” and indeed I do. Call it Italian impressionism (Casella was a friend of Debussy). The same forces, the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma, under conductor Francesco La Vecchia, used in the traversal of the symphonies, deliver the goods here in very compelling performances. Cellist Andrea Noferini gives a tour de force rendition in the Cello Concerto. These three works from 1913 (Notte), 1926 (Scarlattiana), and 1935 (the Concerto) are different stylistically, but are all highly attractive in their own ways.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2010

I have previously described Alfredo Casella as ‘one of its greatest enigmas in the history of music’, and this disc only adds to that puzzle. Torn from his Italian home and family roots, the prodigiously gifted child was sent to Paris as a student at the Conservatoire. There he appears to have absorbed all the influences around him without becoming his own person, and freely admitted the input from Ravel, Debussy and the young Stravinsky. It is Debussy we hear in the mystical Notte di maggio (A night in May), though Casella later credited Stravinsky as the inspiration.Turn to Scarlattiana, written thirteen years later in 1926, and Scarlatti is afforded the same treatment that Stravinsky gave to Pergolesi in Pulcinella. Scored for piano and small orchestra, it is a witty and bright score with Respighi straying into it, and totally different to anything else I have heard from Casella. The Cello Concerto, completed in 1935 opens in frenetic activity, Casella now in his third period restoring links with the Baroque era in Italy. Strangely enough it is here that Casella looked forward to the era of Shostakovich. When the music relaxes and passes through into the central movement the lyric writing is most attractive. The finale is a joyful romp, the principal cellist of the Rome Opera Orchestra, Andrea Noferini, getting around a myriad of notes with commendable skill. If I have painted a picture of a composer who was never quite sure where he was going, that is how I feel, but along the way there is much to enjoy, and I would much commend the Cello Concerto. The Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma and their conductor, Francesco La Vecchia are dedicated champions. Reliable sound quality.

David Hurwitz, October 2010

Notte di maggio is a gorgeous, impressionistic tone poem for voice and orchestra dating from 1913, making it one of Alfredo Casella’s early works. Full of yummy, non-functional harmony, it exudes atmosphere. Olivia Andreini has an attractive timbre that wobbles on most sustained notes, making the work less appealing than it ought to be, but she never turns downright irritating. The work itself, in any case, is consistently fascinating, and the rest of the program is splendid too.

The Cello Concerto is one of Casella’s late pieces, vaguely neo-classical in outline but wholly original melodically and harmonically. Its slow movement is curiously compelling, while the finale, which the composer described as sort of a cello version of “The Flight of the Bumblebee”, lives up to its billing in this virtuoso performance by cellist Andrea Noferini.

Scarlattiana, for piano and orchestra, remains one of Casella’s most popular works, for obvious reasons. The music is scintillating and full of fun, the piano writing brilliant but never facile. With five movements lasting about half an hour, the piece really is a major piano concerto, and while it has been lucky on disc, it ought to be played live more often. Sun Hee You handles the solo part with complete confidence, and as with the other discs in this series, the Rome Symphony Orchestra under Francesco La Vecchia plays the music with the kind of uninhibited enthusiasm that it needs. A beautiful disc, and one that collectors should snap up without delay.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group