ClassicsOnline Home » RESPIGHI: Suite in E Major / Burlesca
By Peter S. Murano
Should we hold in suspicion musicians bearing but a single name? Apparently not, based upon this disc of Respighi works conducted by the enigmatic "Adriano", about whom the CD booklet says the following: "Swiss-born protege of conductor Ernest Ansermet". Judging by the artistic success of this recording, Adriano is a very fine conductor. He offers much on this recording to listeners who appreciate the late Romantic symphonic genre, and he has truly transformed the often mediocre CSR orchestra into a polished and responsive ensemble of the highest calibre.
The music consists of early (and likely unfamiliar) Respighi. The opening piece, "Variazione Sinfoniche" (12:21) consists of a rather unmemorable theme and its several transformations. It is how Respighi treats this theme that makes for an interesting bit of listening - he includes a march, adagio and scherzo. About nine minutes into the work, a powerful organ entrance occurs (it is richly recorded, too). The variations conclude with a vigorous fugue and a triumphant brass send-off. I liked this piece! Track number two contains "Preludio, Chorale e Fuga" (17:37). It opens in a breezy fashion, soon developing a solemn proclamation in the brass (the chorale) after a cymbal crash. The chorale melody is given over to the violin, which sings a tender solo. The strings with harp provide a sense of calm at this point - in a sequence of quite lovely music. A baroque-ish, agitated fugue is begun, with brass and timpani support prior to its subsiding. At one point there is even a hint of von Reznicek's Donna Diana Overture. Then the horns, trumpets and trombones in turn announce the sectioned chorale once more, as the music swells as if riding the crest of an ocean storm. A full treatment of the seven note chorale follows, replete with a feeling of religious majesty and grandeur. An idyllic diminuendo, on strings and piped trumpets, starts peacefully, but gains power with zarathustrian trumpets and timpani. Two brief orchestral pieces follow, "Burlesca", with its Sibelean (Fourth Symphony) and Villa-Lobos (ostinato rhythm) soud-alikes, plus the "Ouverture Carnevalesca". The former contains familiar Respighi signposts, including the charming use of the celesta, the use of rich, swirling string tone, and chatty woodwinds. It is a tight, evocative work which holds one's attention. The "Ouverture" begins passionately in unison strings, and the slavic style Respighi adopts here brings to mind such composers as Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky (his Manfred Symphony, especially). Cellos and snare drum are featured before the entire symphony orchestra takes part in the spirited, dazzling conclusion to a less cohesive, but always interesting, piece of music.
The major work on this disc is the so-called "Suite in E Major", which is more a symphony, owing to its four movements and standard chord progressions. Throughout this piece, Respighi again indicates a debt to other Romantic masters, and one can hear echoes of Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, and even Dvo&345;ák. As a tone poem, themore....
Track number two contains "Preludio, Chorale e Fuga" (17:37). It opens in a breezy fashion, soon developing a solemn proclamation in the brass (the chorale) after a cymbal crash. The chorale melody is given over to the violin, which sings a tender solo. The strings with harp provide a sense of calm at this point - in a sequence of quite lovely music. A baroque-ish, agitated fugue is begun, with brass and timpani support prior to its subsiding. At one point there is even a hint of von Reznicek's Donna Diana Overture. Then the horns, trumpets and trombones in turn announce the sectioned chorale once more, as the music swells as if riding the crest of an ocean storm. A full treatment of the seven note chorale follows, replete with a feeling of religious majesty and grandeur. An idyllic diminuendo, on strings and piped trumpets, starts peacefully, but gains power with zarathustrian trumpets and timpani.
Two brief orchestral pieces follow, "Burlesca", with its Sibelean (Fourth Symphony) and Villa-Lobos (ostinato rhythm) soud-alikes, plus the "Ouverture Carnevalesca". The former contains familiar Respighi signposts, including the charming use of the celesta, the use of rich, swirling string tone, and chatty woodwinds. It is a tight, evocative work which holds one's attention. The "Ouverture" begins passionately in unison strings, and the slavic style Respighi adopts here brings to mind such composers as Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky (his Manfred Symphony, especially). Cellos and snare drum are featured before the entire symphony orchestra takes part in the spirited, dazzling conclusion to a less cohesive, but always interesting, piece of music.
The major work on this disc is the so-called "Suite in E Major", which is more a symphony, owing to its four movements and standard chord progressions. Throughout this piece, Respighi again indicates a debt to other Romantic masters, and one can hear echoes of Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, and even Dvo&345;ák. As a tone poem, the
to the early orchestral works of Respighi all recorded here for the first time,
one would never suppose the composer to have been Italian. They belong to the
earlier period of Respighi's career, before the water-shed of his development,
which, in his own judgement, came at the age of 37, in 1916, the year of
Fontane di Roma. If Respighi had lived no longer than this, posterity would
have seen him as a very talented Bologna composer, a former pupil of the
violinist Federico Sarti, of Luigi Torchi and, for composition, of Giuseppe
Martucci, with a predilection for a form of music largely neglected at that
time in Italy: the symphonic. Bologna was, in fact, the centre of
German-oriented tendencies. In the Teatro Comunale the first Italian
performances of Wagner's operas had been given, under the direction of
Martucci, and the whole musical atmosphere of the place, where Respighi, like
Toscanini, served as orchestral players, exercised an influence on the composer
that deserves further detailed treatment. This was a period when artists met to
collaborate, to inspire and criticise each other and to enjoy friendship. In
this society Respighi was something of a portabandiera, a standard-bearer, for
alternative musical tendencies, which were looked at askance by the musical
intelligentsia in the circle of La Scala in Milan, some 200 kilometres away.
had first studied German and French composers even more seriously than he had
the Italian masters, writing music that contains more or less overt tributes to
the former, in, for example, sonatas, quartets, orchestral suites and songs.
These works he eventually put on one side, but never destroyed, although very
few were published in his life-time and only two more after his death. Today,
when attitudes to Respighi are changing, the musical world, and some
publishers, are inclined to treat these early works with greater generosity,
while still regarding coolly a real masterpiece, like, for example, the opera
Semirâma of 1910.
very important influence on Respighi's early symphonic work came from the
Russian school. In 1900-1 and 1902 the young composer accepted a contract from
the Imperial Theatres of St. Petersburg and the Bolshoy in Moscow as a
viola-player for two seasons of Italian opera. This brought him an introduction
to Rimsky-Korsakov, who immediately recognised his talent and gave him lessons
over a period of five months. At the same time he was introduced by
Rimsky-Korsakov to local musical circles, including the Friday Chamber Music
Society. In between his two stays in Russia, Respighi took a composer's diploma
at the Conservatory of Bologna with his Preludio, corale e fuga, his second
work for a large symphony orchestra.
important events in Respighi's early career include the two periods he spent in
Berlin, in 1902 as an occasional and somewhat dissatisfied pupil of Max Bruch
and in 1908 as a piano coach in the singing class of Etelka Gardini Gerster. In
1913 he was appointed professor of composition at the Liceo di Santa Cecilia in
Rome, where he remained until his death in 1936.
had his Symphonic Variations performed for the first time at the Bologna
Conservatory on 24th June 1900 and took the score with him to Russia, where
Rimsky-Korsakov was favourably impressed by the work. Still neo-classical in
form, the Variations give the impression of a tribute to the romanticism of
César Franck and Brahms. The work consists of a series of passacaglia-like
variations, preceded by an introduction and the actual passacaglia theme in D
minor, transformed, in various episodes, into a march, an adagio and a scherzo.
The climax comes in a fugue, introduced by the organ, leading to a triumphant
restatement of the theme in D major. Already Respighi shows a masterly command
of writing for brass. The orchestration includes a cor anglais, two harps and
organ, with timpani, the only percussion instrument used. The Variazioni
sinfoniche is still a long way from the Metamorfoseon of 1930, but shows the
composer's early interest in variation form, demonstrated again in his Adagio
con variazioni for cello and orchestra, or piano, probably written before 1916,
but published only in 1922, a later favourite with audiences.
corale e fuga
Preludio, corale e fuga is conceived on a larger scale than the Variazioni
sinfoniche and is double the length, although in a similar style. The first
performance took place exactly one year after that of the Variations and a
photograph survives of Respighi on the conductor's podium in front of the
Orchestra dei Conservatorio. From the manuscript paper on which the score is
written it is clear that the work was orchestrated in Russia. It carries the
date of March 1901, in the composer's hand. It is possible that Rimsky-Korsakov
himself supervised the work, giving advice as necessary, although this is not
apparent from the music, which, in any case, was presumably sketched out before
Respighi went to Russia. This time there is a touch of Saint-Saëns, with a
clear initial reference to the Organ Symphony, while we may suspect the ending
as a reference to the tone-poem. Also sprach Zarathustra of Richard Strauss, if
Respighi knew the work at this time.
scoring is for a similar orchestra to that used in the Variazioni sinfoniche,
without the organ, but with percussion. Unlike César Franck's work of the same
title, sometimes heard in the orchestrated version by Gabriel Pierné,
Respighi's work amalgamates the three musical forms into one piece, which
develops in a cyclic and almost symphonic way. The Corale is dominant and
subject to development from its original form to a lyrical episode with violin
solo, to re-appear in the final section. The Preludio is built up into aseries
of chords that form the basis of the Corale itself, followed by the actual
theme, with its reminiscence of Saint-Saëns, but this last has also a
scherzo-like function in the central episode, serving eventually as a
development of the Fuga. Martucci was sufficiently impressed to declare
Respighi not a pupil but already a master.
in mi maggiore
versions of the Suite in E major survive from 1901 and 1903. Of the former
there is no record of performance,while the Adagio of the second version was
given on 23rd May 1907 under the direction of Pietro Cimini. It seems probable
that the second version was at some point played in its entirety, since the
original orchestral material contains markings and corrections by the
musicians. The first version of the Suite has in brackets the additional title
Sinfonia, a description perhaps rejected for reasons of modesty, since his only
work of this kind is the Sinfonia drammatica of 1914. It is tempting to retain
the title Symphony for the second version, in the orchestral material of which
(and not in the score) some inappropriate movement titles appear - I. Nella
foresta, II. Visione, III. Danza and IV. Eroica.
we restore the more ambitious title of symphony, we may regard the work as a
particularly elaborate example of the form. The rustling introduction, for
example, returns as a short developing episode, a reminiscence of the battle
scene in Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, in the fourth movement, and the buoyant main
theme that follows is the source of the march in the finale. The key
relationships of the movements, E major, D flat major, B minor / B major and E
major, also suggest a symphony.
is in fact only the second movement that is characteristic of a traditional
suite, an arrangement, in the same key, of a love-duet from the first act of
the opera Semirâma, a work that Respighi withdrew after its first performance,
leaving it to be revived on the stage and in recording only today. The sensuous
motif in D flat major and its plaintive continuation, sustained by murmuring
strings and harp, sound as exciting as in the original version with singing
voices, with a touch of the exoticism that marked Respighi's later works. There
is considerable musical interest in the scherzo, with its trio of Russian character.
The chromaticism of the music and the delicate instrumentation, with effective
percussion writing and parts for pianoforte and glockenspiel, instruments that
do not appear in the remaining movements, make this the most modern-sounding of
the four. The first and last movements are clearly linked to the music of
Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and, even more, to that of Dvorák, with a finale
theme that declares its debt to Dvorák's Symphony From the New World.
Nevertheless, whatever his debt to these composers, Respighi uses a more
advanced and even boisterous technique of development. Apart from a short
excursion into the pathetic before the affirmation of the march in the finale,
the work is optimistic. At the same time it has no passages of unnecessary
length, no empty transitions or repetitions, and in the present writer's
opinion is of greater value and interest, and certainly less academic, than the
three symphonies of Rimsky-Korsakov.
period of three years between the Suite in mi maggiore and Burlesca saw the
composition of two more suites, both for string orchestra, one with organ and
the other with solo flute, and the comic opera Re Enzo. The stylistic
differences between these works and Burlesca are obvious and it is tempting to
regard the latter work as the beginning of Respighi's impressionism. The
manuscript score carries the composer's note "faccio questo lavoro!!"
(I am doing this work!!), suggesting his particular approval of what he was at.
The work was given its first performance in Bologna in May 1906, apparently in
a concert that also saw performances of works by Ferruccio Busoni, under the
direction of Bruno Mugellini.
elements in the form of scherzoso interventions, which Respighi intended as
justification of the title, serve this purpose, while sustaining the
development of the lyrical main theme of the Burlesca. In G major / G minor,
the work is dionysiac in mood, more convincingly than the Poema autunnale for
violin and orchestra of 1925. Similar, episodic pre-Stravinskyan stamping
rhythms recur in both works, but the Poema lacks the extensive and rapid
ostinato triplets of Burlesca, a possibly tiresome irritation to
string-players. Allusions to other composers may be fewer, but there is already
a tendency towards the symphonic poem, with suggestions of the sounds of water
to be heard later in Fontane di Roma and passages anticipating the comic mood
of Belfagor. The work is scored without trombones, but with four French horns
and double wind, and delicate writing for celesta and harp.
1913 Respighi appeared as a conductor of his own works in ten different Italian
cities. In the same year he started work on the Sinfonia drammatica and his
third opera Marie-Victoire. Ouverture carnevalesca was first performed under
the direction of the composer in Bologna on 19th April of the same year. This
work, in E major / E minor, is in form the most Italian of Respighi's early
orchestral compositions, using as it does the Saltarello, although the
secondary theme has a Russian touch. The work is scored for large orchestra,
with tuba, glockenspiel and drums. In spite of its rather dense harmonic
structure, the instrumentation never becomes overloaded, providing an admirable
work for an enterprising orchestra. An earlier version of the ending has been
restored for the present recording, showing the composer in an almost
indecently hilarious mood.
Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic
ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929. The orchestra's first conductor was
František Dyk and over the past sixty years it has worked under the direction
of several prominent Czech and Slovak conductors. The orchestra has made many
recordings for the Naxos label ranging from the ballet music of Tchaikovsky to
more modern works by composers such as Copland, Britten and Prokofiev. For
Marco Polo the orchestra has recorded works by Glazunov, Glière, Rubinstein and
other late romantic composers and film music of Honegger, Bliss, Ibert and
Adriano began his artistic activities in the domains of the theatre and the
graphic arts. In music he is largely self-taught. When he was in his twenties,
he was urged by conductors such as Joseph Keilberth and Ernest Ansermet, who
recognized his gifts, to embrace a conducting career. Instead he became a
composer of stage, film and chamber music and also a record producer tor his
own gramophone label, Adriano Records. In the late 1970s he established himself
as a specialist on Ottorino Respighi, organizing a comprehensive exhibition at
the 1979 Lucerne Music Festival and and publishing a discography. For the past
six years Adriano has worked as an Italian and French language coach, teacher
and stage assistant at the Zürich Opera House and its InternationalOpera
numerous efforts to promote little known music include an old Italian
translation of Telemann's opera Pimpinone, which was given its first
performance in Italy in 1987. For a production of Galuppi's II filosofo di
campagna at the Stuttgart Music Festival in 1988, he conceived a theatrical
prologue in which he himself appeared as an actor.
is now a regular guest of the Czecho Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava),
mainly contributing to a classic film music series tor Marco Polo Records, in
which it is planned to include recordings of more than a dozen scores by
composers like Honegger, Ibert, Bliss, Khatchaturian, Waxman and others.
Adriano's Respighi commitment for this label will include important premier
recordings of youthful and later works.
a note by David Nelson)
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RESPIGHI: Suite in E Major / Burlesca