Giuseppe Martucci's music has largely been neglected for many years, aside from a few sporadic performances and recordings. It was Arturo Toscanini who championed Martucci and even conducted a number of his works in broadcast performances with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in Studio 8-H, especially in his early years with that orchestra. Surprisingly, Toscanini never approved the release of any of these performances; they were eventually released by companies other than RCA Victor, long after Toscanini's death in 1957.
The general sentiment was that Martucci was not very good, that his music sounded too much like other composers and was clearly influenced by Richard Wagner. Yet the impact Martucci had on so many other composers can't be denied. There is definitely a relationship between Martucci and one of his students, the more famous Ottorino Respighi, as can be clearly heard in Respighi's "Dramatic Symphony." The fact that Toscanini, who was often very particular in his musical selections, chose to play so much of Martucci's music had to be more than just a sentimental or nostalgic tribute to a fellow countryman. Now, with the release of so much of Martucci's music by Naxos, we can hear for ourselves the merits of this composer. Every evidence is that Martucci has been unjustly neglected for a long time. It's wonderful to finally hear performances of major and minor orchestral works. This is very lyrical, very dramatic music and it is all given very competent performances by the talented Italian musicians in these well-recorded versions.
The first symphony, in particular, is a major achievement, especially since Italian composers rarely wrote symphonies in the nineteenth century. One of the other rare symphonies composed by an Italian in that century was the single symphony by Luigi Cherubini, also recorded by Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra (in Carnegie Hall in 1952) and actually approved for release by the Maestro. This symphony is definitely a real musical treat. There is, despite some apparent influences by Martucci's contemporaries, considerable imagination and energy throughout the work. There is a great deal of variety in the musical themes and it is exceptionally well orchestrated, clearly anticipating the masterful orchestrations of Martucci's student Respighi, particularly in his famous symphonic poems.
Hopefully, these recordings, as well as the reissue of other performances of Martucci's music, will lead to a long-overdue revival and appreciation of a really great composer.