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Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, March 2014

…the symphony is terrific and completely enjoyable. Cola di Rienzo is certainly fun too…this is some of the Rome Symphony Orchestra’s best playing in the series so far, especially from those brass players. The performances are as infectious as the music. © 2014 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Zan Furtwangler
Audiophile Audition, July 2013

Conductor La Vecchia leads with passion and vigor. His orchestra is professional-sounding and responsive to his direction.

The sound on this recording is very good…The program notes in English and Italian are excellent…these two works by Sgambati are certainly worth hearing. © 2013 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Don O’Connor
American Record Guide, May 2013

Both performances and interpretations are competent and sympathetic…Maestro LaVecchia and his forces rate praise for their championing of Italy’s rich symphonic tradition. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, May 2013

…these performances by Francesco La Vecchia and the Symphony Orchestra of Rome are nothing short of magnificent and are guaranteed to stimulate the appetite of anyone who acquires this CD for more Sgambati. It’s urgently recommended to all. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, January 2013

…these performances are emotionally charged. There’s an enthusiasm tempered with attention to rhythmic and dynamic detail that gives this forgotten music a new lease on life.

…the recordings are quite consistent and project a moderately wide but deep soundstage in a reverberant acoustic that will appeal to those liking wetter sonics. The orchestral timbre is generally musical… © 2013 Classical Lost and Found Read complete review

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, January 2013

The disk pairs the Symphony No. 1 with the overture “Cola di Rienzo.” The latter is a 20-minute piece of great color and grandeur, beautifully orchestrated, showing some Wagnerian influences in the overall sound but thematic originality and a sure hand.

The Symphony No. 1 in D major, Op. 16, follows. Five movements of contrast and epic splendor, I suppose you could say, fill out the disk. It’s a work with all the depth of a well-conceived symphony of the era, played with enthusiasm and elan by the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma under Francesco La Vecchia.

This music is a definite find. This disk belongs in your collection if you champion forgotten gems, and for the serious student of late romantic symphonic works. Aside from that it is very enjoyable to hear. © 2013 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

David Hurwitz, January 2013

Containing five movements arranged in a perfect “arch” form…there’s nothing that sounds quite like it in the entire 19th century literature. The scoring, for standard forces plus two harps, piccolo, but no extra percussion or other exotica, is pellucidly clear and “alive”…the outer movements really move; they have no dead spots and no single movement outstays its welcome.

Sample…the gorgeous melody from the second movement (Andante mesto) for strings…and harps. Here is true Italian lyricism in a symphonic context—just lovely.

The performances are very good. Francesco La Vecchia shapes the symphony quite effectively, choosing tempos that convey the music’s easy-going energy and winning lyricism with complete confidence…the Rome Symphony Orchestra plays quite well, especially the woodwinds, who have a lot of important solo work. © 2013 Read complete review, December 2012

Suitably solemn and dramatic, the overture is well structured and fits its subject matter well…The orchestration of the scherzo of the five-movement symphony is particularly impressive, showing Wagnerian influence but transcending it through Sgambati’s own emotional imprint. The finale, which sums up the work both structurally (using techniques of elaboration and variation) and emotionally (with intensity plus warmth), is an effective capstone to a piece that fits firmly into the Romantic era but clearly takes its own approach to the music of its time. Francesco La Vecchia…once again shows himself here to be a committed and sensitive interpreter of music that has more to say than its comparative obscurity would indicate. © 2012 Read complete review

John Terauds
Musical Toronto, December 2012

A fantastic performance by the 10-year-old Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma under Francesco La Vecchi brings this harmonically rich, thematically astute, expansive music to brilliant life.

Something new and wonderful appears in the score with each new listen.

I’ve been impressed most by the sense of carefully measured, seamless progression in the overall narrative…

The music has opened a door to what turns out to be a fascinating figure in Italian musical history. © 2012 Musical Toronto Read complete review

Cinemusical, December 2012

The Romanticism of Sgambati owes a lot to Liszt and Wagner’s harmonic innovations of the period. It does have an Italianate lyricism that appears even in the somewhat Wagnerian overture Cola di Rienzo. This is a massive 18-minute orchestral work of rich harmony and soaring musical ideas with great brass writing particularly interesting to hear. It is a simply wonderful example of mid-century Romanticism certainly informed by its Germanic models but with great dramatic narrative sense. Certainly well worth further performances.

The Symphony No. 1 in D, Op. 16…is cast in five-movements, a rather innovative touch for a first essay in the genre in this period. The opening “Allegro vivace, non troppo” has a decided lightness to its scurrying strings that recalls Mendelssohn a bit. The orchestration and shifts in color are well done and the brass again insert themselves with fanfare-like ideas throughout the movement. There are also interesting harmonic modulations that will catch the ear as the movement moves along. It is nothing short of a brilliantly orchestrated work. The second movement is…a bit of a free fantasy in two beautiful sections the first for oboe which is then passed along to flute. The third “Scherzo” movement is a bit more like the center part of an overture with an almost rhapsodic nature. This is followed by another lyrical slow movement, “Serenata,” with darker string writing and hints of mystery. The finale is in some respects a bit of a “review” of the primary ideas in the work though with variation. It makes for a terrific closer.

Essentially every country has its share of neglected composers whose music “sounds” like mid-century Romanticism because that was when they were composing their music. Sgambati’s symphony falls into this fray but is another of the unjustly forgotten fine essays in symphonic form. Certainly its engaging melodic ideas and brilliant orchestration is cause enough for its resuscitation. The performances here of the Rome orchestra under La Vecchia are quite superb capturing the joy of discovery for these pieces and providing committed performances. Easily recommended for those looking for great Romantic music of the 19th century. © 2013 Cinemusical Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2012

Almost ignored in today’s international concert halls, Giovanni Sgambati was a prime mover in the efforts to change the perception that Italy was just a country of opera. Born in 1841 he was to become a pupil of Franz Liszt in Germany, and was there influenced by Brahms and Wagner, his early scores being largely confined to instrumental music, and was almost forty by the time he started his first symphony in 1880. It was to draw the attention of major figures, including Grieg and Saint-Saens, while the conductor, Arturo Toscanini, championed the score in the concert hall. In five movements, its long flowing melodies were totally Germanic in nature and pleasing in content. The Scherzo is delightful, and the following Serenata as beautiful as you will find in a symphony. The missing ingredient is a sense of drama until we reach the finale, and by then it is a little too late arriving. If I can give you some idea of content, then think of Raff in his pastoral symphonies. Certainly the Rome orchestra, and their admirable conductor, Francesco La Vecchia, do everything possible for the score. The disc is completed by the overture to Cossa’s dramatic poem, Cola di Rienzo, a score long lost and probably never performed at the time, the manuscript only recently rediscovered. This too is a work of subtle tones, and elegant melodies. The recording is unfussy, its smooth quality perfectly complementing the music.

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