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ClassicsOnline Home » GAROFALO: Romantic Symphony / Violin Concerto
By Marco del Vaglio
"The performance of the New Moscow Symphony Orchestra, directed by Joel Spiegelman, was very impressive both in Violin Concerto, where it is also possible to appreciate the great performance of the Russian violinist Sergei Stadler, and in Romantic Symphony. In conclusion we thank to Marco Polo for this recording that proposed the music of a great Italian composer inexplicably buried in oblivion."
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 6th 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 worlds amateurs have found a permanent place in the archives. With Garofalo this is not the case. His music fully deserved attention and to be performed.
Carlo Giorgio Garofalo was born on 5th 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 Bostons 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 Garofalos 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, he could not travel to the première, and thus never heard the whole symphony performed. In Rome, the renowned Tulio 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 Garofalos 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, Carlo Zecchi, conducted the Andante of the Romantic Symphony in Vienna, and the outstanding Italian violinist Remy Principe played Garofalos 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 Italys first non-operatic composer.
The Moscow performance of the Romantic Symphony actually marked the first serious attention paid to Garofalos 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 composers 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.
Sergei Stadler is one of Russias leading musicians. Born in St Petersburg on 20th May, 1962, he studied the violin with David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan and took the first prize and gold medal in the 1982 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. He is also a laureate of the Jacques Thibaud competition in Paris, where he won the Grand Prize in 1980. He has performed as soloist with the London Philharmonic, the Russian National Symphony, and the Dresden Staatskapelle Orchestras, collaborating with world famous conductors, including Kurt Masur, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Maris Janssons, Evgeny Svetlanov and Yuri Termirkanov. Sergei Stadler is now Artistic Director of the Hermitage Musical Academy in St Petersburg as well as Artistic Director of the State Theatre of Opera and Ballet of the St Petersburg Conservatory of Music.
New Moscow Symphony Orchestra
The New Moscow Symphony Orchestra was sponsored in 1999 by the Modern Times Group of Sweden. Based in Moscow, the orchestra consists of leading Russian musicians brought together by conductor, Joel Spiegelman, to enhance and support the activities of Scandinavias pre-eminent multimedia and broadcasting company, The Modern Times Group of Sweden.
Joel Spiegelman is known internationally as a conductor, composer, pianist, harpsichordist, and author. His musical training was also international, at Yale University, the Paris Conservatoire, where as a French Government Scholar he studied with Nadia Boulanger between 1956 and 1960, the Gnesin Institute of Music in Moscow, St Petersburg Conservatory, and Brandeis University. He has made an ongoing and significant contribution to Russian musical life in the course of his career, and has appeared regularly as a conductor with leading Russian orchestras, including the St Petersburg Philharmonic and the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestras. Spiegelman has composed in a wide spectrum of musical forms that include chamber, choral, and symphonic music, electronic music, ballet, and music for film and television. He has had retrospective concerts of his music in Paris, New York, Vilnius, Moscow and St Petersburg. Joel Spiegelman is the author of numerous published articles about Soviet and Russian music, and electronic music, and many articles have appeared about him in the most widely read encyclopaedias and dictionaries of music. His recordings include his appearance as soloist with Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic in a recording of a work by the late Russian composer, Edison Denisov. He has also released two recordings of Bachs Goldberg Variations, one as harpsichordist and the other a digital transcription on electronic keyboards. Orchestral recordings include the complete symphonic music of the American composer Irving Fine, Millennium Magic, and Holocaust Requiem by Ronald Senator performed with the Moscow Philharmonic.
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GAROFALO: Romantic Symphony / Violin Concerto