Review By Dominy Clements,MusicWeb International,June 2009
Martucci’s Symphony No. 2 took another significant chunk of the composer’s career, seeing a gestation period of about 5 years before completion. Again, the avuncular figure of Brahms gazes down, sprinkling influential dust on many aspects of upon this piece, but again the forceful nature of the music immediately dismisses any ideas one might have of this being in any way a pale imitation. Indeed, there are some dissonances in the first movement which seem to anticipate Sibelius, and while the horns and strings enjoy much of that rich German romantic texture, there are some little woodwind figures which seem to leap straight out of something altogether more Czechoslovakian. There are more fingerprints from elsewhere, with the string ostinati and other aspects
Moving on to the ‘fillers’, the Tema con variazioni is Martucci’s only other work for piano and orchestra aside from the two piano concertos, and even then it is an arrangement, originally for piano solo—subsequently revised more than once and including a version for two pianos. The theme itself is not particularly memorable nor are the variations equally distinguished, with plenty of facile ‘plink-plink’ pianism going on in some. There are however some fascinating moments in this piece, with plenty of dialogue between soloist and orchestra and some intriguing orchestral textures. Martucci goes for the ‘big tune’ in the Adagio variation, but this ends up sounding more like a parody than a major achievement. Lya De Barberiis’ playing is not helped by a rather clangy treble in the instrument used, but is anyway competent rather than inspirational. The Gavotta is another transcription from a solo piano piece, having plenty of pastoral offbeat rhythmic charm rather than a direct dance character. More exciting is the final track, the Tarantella which, orchestrated in 1908 was Martucci’s last transcription. ‘Rowdiness, verging on aggression’ is how Richard Whitehouse describes it, and there is indeed plenty of wildness in the ride—for players and listener alike…These new recordings [Symphony No 1 is available on 8.570929] from Naxos are both of a very high standard in any context, and made even more attractive by being at budget price…the overriding impression is that of stylish professionalism in the entirety of the orchestral sound, as well as in numerous lovely orchestral solos throughout both discs…The acoustic of the Auditorium Conciliazione is big and resonant, but there is no loss of detail in the recording, and the richly relaxed spread of instruments is on to which you can listen for a long time with no sense of fatigue. Good booklet note from Richard Whitehouse top off another set of remarkably fine recordings from the Naxos stable, so, snap up these at two for the price of probably-less-than-one and rejuvenate your romantic orchestral section with resounding resonances.