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ClassicsOnline Home » GAROFALO, C.G.: Violin Concerto / Romantic Symphony (S. Stadler, New Moscow Symphony, Spiegelman)
Born in the same decade as his more famous contemporaries, Malipiero, Casella and Pizzetti, Carlo Giorgio Garofalo composed a considerable body of sacred and secular music. Until its 1994 Moscow revival conducted by Joel Spiegelman, Garofalo’s Romantic Symphony, admired by Toscanini and Nikisch, had been performed in full score only once. It is a dramatically gripping and uplifting work of unabashed Romanticism. Garofalo’s gift for sweeping melodies and well-rounded musical form is also evident in his Violin Concerto whose solo part gives ample opportunity for rapturously virtuosic display and poignant lyricism.
Carlo Giorgio Garofalo (1886—1962)
Romantic Symphony • Violin Concerto
An event occurred in Moscow that is worthy of public attention. After the close of the musical season, a really exceptional première took place on 6 June 1994 in the Bolshoy Hall of Moscow Conservatory. The American composer and conductor Joel Spiegelman, who has regularly appeared in Moscow over the last several years, introduced us to the Romantic Symphony of a completely forgotten Italian composer, Carlo Giorgio Garofalo. His case is unique. Buried in oblivion, even the name of this musician was forgotten, ignored by all the better known music dictionaries and encyclopaedias. The question arises as to whether this neglect was justified. Occasionally things like this do happen, and many musical forgeries by the world’s amateurs have found a permanent place in the archives. With Garofalo this is not the case. His music fully deserves attention and to be performed.
Carlo Giorgio Garofalo was born on 5 August 1886 in Rome, where he studied composition, organ, and other disciplines with Stanislao Falchi, Cesare de Sanctis, Remigio Renzi, and Salvatore Saija with the last of whom he shared a position as organist in the main synagogue in Rome for 22 years. Immediately after his graduation from the conservatory, he spent two years in the United States, working as the music director of one of Boston’s cathedrals.
Like many of his Italian contemporaries, Garofalo directed his efforts mainly to composing sacred music for both choir and organ. His Masses were performed in the principal cathedrals of Rome, Milan, Bergamo, Monza and other Italian cities, but apart from that he left a considerable body of work composed in all secular musical genres. The circumstances of his life, however, did not permit him to reach either a wide audience, or the attention of the critics.
Before the present performance the greatest of Garofalo’s orchestral works, the Romantic Symphony, had been heard in its entirety only once, in 1915, performed by the St Louis Symphony, with Max Zach conducting. Because of the disturbed times resulting from the First World War, Garofalo could not travel to the première, and thus never heard the whole symphony performed. In Rome, the renowned Tullio Serafin gave only two of its movements, the Andante and Scherzo, at one of his concerts. The symphony was highly acclaimed on both sides of the ocean, and the great conductors, Arturo Toscanini and Arthur Nikisch were ardent admirers of Garofalo’s work. They were prevented, however, from performing his music, each for different reasons.
Since then, the music of Garofalo, with the exception of his sacred music, has remained unknown to the public. Only a few performances of his compositions took place before his death in 1962. Nevertheless some famous musicians were involved in these performances. Twice, in 1942 and 1948, the conductor and pianist Carlo Zecchi, conducted the Andante of the Romantic Symphony in Vienna, and the outstanding Italian violinist Remy Principe played Garofalo’s Violin Concerto under the baton of Giuseppe Morelli, but his large-scale comic opera, The Juggler, has never been staged, and many other scores have remained unperformed to this day.
It has been said that Ottorino Respighi was to some extent responsible for the unhappy fate of Garofalo, as he saw in him a dangerous competitor who could undermine his own reputation as Italy’s first non-operatic composer.
The Moscow performance of the Romantic Symphony actually marked the first serious attention paid to Garofalo’s music in decades. Two years before, Joel Spiegelman had discovered the score in an American archive, and he became enthusiastic about the idea of performing it. This opportunity presented itself in Moscow.
What we hear is a really monumental musical structure. By its sheer size, thematic development, orchestration, and musical architecture, this work belongs more to the Viennese tradition than to the Italian, and above all else, it brings to mind the powerful symphonies of Bruckner. At the same time, however, the work could in no way be considered to be merely derivative. The composer’s melodic gift is without doubt, as is the dramatic mastery that allows him to create a well-rounded form, both dramatically gripping, and uplifting in its unabashed romanticism. Masterfully orchestrated, here there is really something to play for each section of the orchestra, and for every instrument; the orchestral mass never drowns out the themes or musical ideas. In a word, this is a genuine and great post-romantic symphony that now thoroughly deserves to take its place in the concert hall.
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