RESPIGHI: Sinfonia Drammatica (Daniel Nazareth/ Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550951)
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Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936): Sinfonia Drammatica
Ottorino Respighi was born in Bologna in 1879 and studied the violin andviola at the Liceo Musicale from 1891 with Federico Sarti. At the same time hetook lessons in composition, at first from the musicologist Luigi Torchi, whohad returned to Bologna from the Liceo Rossiui in Pesaro in the same year, andlater from the composer Giuseppe Martucci, who was director of the Liceo until1902. In 1899 he completed his studies and the following year went to StPetersburg as principal viola-player at the Imperial Opera. In Russia, where hespent the seasons of 1901-02 and 1902-03, he took lessons from Rimsky- Korsakovin composition and orchestration.
During the first decade of the present century Respighi won a reputation as aperformer, while pursuing his growing interest in earlier music and incomposition. In Berlin during 1908 and 1909 he attended lectures by Max Bruch,to relatively little effect. The influence of Rimsky-Korsakov, however, was toremain with him and to guide his bold use of orchestral colour. These yearsbrought a series of compositions. In 1902 his Piano Concerto in A minor wasperformed in Bologna and his Notturno of 1905 was played in New York underRodolfo Ferrari. The latter year saw the first production of his opera R?¿Enzo in Bologna, a work followed five years later by Semirama, theseoperas winning him a reputation that led, in 1913, to his appointment as teacherof composition at the Liceo di Santa Cecilia in Rome.
In 1919 Respighi married a singer, Elsa Olivieri-Sangiacomo, and in 1924became director of Santa Cecilia, resigning two years later to devote himself tocomposition, although he continued to teach and to perform in concerts as aconductor and as an accompanist to his wife. He died in 1936 at the house he hadnamed after one of his most famous works, Pini di Roma.
Respighi's international reputation, which still exceeds that of any otherItalian composer of his generation, depends very largely on the symphonic poemsthat offer evocative and pictorial representations of Rome. Fontane di Roma,four vivid pictures of the fountains of the city, was completed in 1916. Pini diRoma, an evocation of Roman scenes associated with the pines of the city,followed in 1924, and this was to be succeeded by the Feste romane in 1929, awork coloured by a certain contemporary political optimism. In 1918 he providedthe Russian ballet impresario Dyagilev with a score derived from Rossini, Laboutique fantasque, a work that has continued in popular ballet repertoiresince its first performance in London in 1919. A later ballet, Belkis, Reginadi Saba, was written in 1931, and performed at La Scala, Milan, in thefollowing year. There were, too, other operas which have largely failed 10capture the public imagination, although offering music of considerableinterest.
Another aspect of Respighi's work was his enthusiasm for earlier music.
Gregorian chant was to suggest a melodic source for compositions such as the Concertogregoriano, for violin, and the Concerto in modo misolidio, forpiano, as well as the orchestral Vetrate di chiesa of 1927, symphonicimpressions of the windows of four churches. He arranged various sets of lutedances for orchestra, and assembled a collection of orchestral birds for thesequence Gli uccelli, based on bird-pieces by keyboard composers of theeighteenth century. A more thorough example of this tendency to look to the pastwas seen in his last opera, Lucrezia, performed at La Scala the yearafter his death.
Respighi's Sinfonia Drammatica was completed in 1914. It is asubstantial work that has been regarded by some as a further example ofRespighi's early eclecticism. The dramatic mood is established at once as theorchestra launches into music that may at times remind us of Mahler,particularly in elements of orchestration and lyrical melancholy. RichardStrauss was, of course, a strong influence in this earlier period of thecomposer's life, if not the most immediately apparent here, except, perhaps, inthe scale of the symphony and its occasional extravagance of orchestral effect. The second movement might suggest theinfluence of Debussy, in mood and idiom, with an interlude of solemnmedieva1ism, leading to dramatic intensity, which is then replaced by are turnto the initia1 tranquillity, disturbed briefly once again before fina1 serenityis restored. The fina1 Allegro impetuoso unleashes powerful forces that offer abewildering variety of mood and incident, making full use of orchestra1 colourthat does everything to justify the title of the work.
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1949 as the first statesymphony orchestra in Slovakia. The orchestra's style was developed by suchmajor conductors as Vaclav Talich, Ludovit Rajter, Ladislav Slovak, Libor Pesek,Vladimir Verbitsky, Bystrik Relucha and Aldo Ceccato who served as principalconductors, and many other guest conductors, including Zdenek Kosler, JanosFerencsik, Carlo Zecchi, Dmitri Kitayenko, Claudio Abbado, James Conlon, MarisJansons, Kurt Masur, Sergiu Celibidache, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Leonard Slatkin,James Judd and Jean-Claude Casadesus. Since 1991 its principal conductor hasbeen Ondrej Lenard, who in 1995 was appointed musical director of the orchestra.
The orchestra has toured Europe, USA and Japan several times, participating inmajor international festivals, and has made a great number of recordings for avariety of labels.
Daniel Nazareth was born in Bombay and took a degree in Commerce andEconomics at Bombay University in 1968. He later studied at the Royal Academy ofMusic in London, where he was awarded the Sir Adrian Boult Cup, following thiswith a period of study at the Vienna Hochschule f??r Musik und DarstellendeKunst, from which he graduated with distinction in 1975. He served as ConductingAssistant to the Vienna Musikverein in the 1975-76 season.
In 1977 Daniel Nazareth made his debut as a conductor of opera with Mozart's Cosifan tutte at the Spoleto Festival, and in 1978 he conducted Le nozze diFigaro, Il barbiere di Siviglia and La traviara for theCanadian Opera Company in Toronto. In March 1982 he conducted a new productionof Britten's The Rape of Lucretia for the Arena Theatre in Verona. In1976 Daniel Nazareth was awarded the Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellowship andthe Koussevitsky Music Foundation Conductor's Award at Tanglewood, and in 1978he won the first International Ernest Ansermet Conducting Competition in Geneva.