Review By Jerry Dubins,Fanfare,November 2009
The current release—Volume 3 in Naxos’s complete survey of Martucci’s orchestral music—contains works that are not new to the recorded catalog…So let me begin with La canzone dei ricordi (“The Songs of Memories”), which seems to be one of Martucci’s more enduring works…The poems, as can be deduced from the work’s title, are about dreams recollected, mostly of longed-for, but alas, only imagined loves. More interesting are Martucci’s formal design and musical content. Each song ends in a different key from which it started. The song that follows it begins in the key in which the previous song ended. Thus, by the end, we have returned to the key and the poem with which the cycle began. Stylistically,
Freni was 60 when she recorded the Martucci with Muti in 1995. Age had added a degree of weight to a soprano voice that in its youth was lighter and more lyric in character. I’m not suggesting she would have made a good Brunhilde, but her projection in these songs comes across as sounding more Wagnerian than does Silvia Pasini’s delivery on the new Naxos. Nor by any means is it just a matter of voice. Freni dispatches the cycle in just over 28 minutes, compared to Pasini’s drawn-out 33:50. The result is that Freni’s reading has tremendous dramatic thrust, frequently sounding like an agitated Brunhilde railing in high dudgeon against Wotan, while Pasini sounds more like Mimi in her “Mi chiamano Mimì” aria from La bohème.
If my description has led you to believe that I prefer Freni to Pasini in this song cycle, you’d be wrong. Martucci may have been a Wagner champion, but he was not Wagner; and Pagliera’s poems, to which Martucci set his music, are not about mythic warriors, heroes, and the downfall of the gods. They’re about dreams remembered in that half-conscious state of waking. Pasini, I believe, comes closer to capturing the more impressionistic character of the poetry and the music; and Francesco La Vecchia has under him in the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma a better ensemble than Muti did at the time in his La Scala Philharmonic.
Since I have no other recordings of the Piano Concerto against which to compare Gesualdo Coggi’s performance, I can be brief. If you love big, Romantic piano concertos, Martucci’s D-Minor Concerto is right up there with some of the best of them. Echoes of Schumann, Grieg, and Brahms’s First Concerto (his Second hadn’t been completed yet when Martucci wrote his score in 1878) reverberate throughout the score, and maybe even a hint every now and then of Tchaikovsky (assuming Martucci had heard it in its original 1875 version prior to starting work on his own Concerto). Gorgeous music, gorgeous playing, gorgeous recording; this one is not to be missed.