Respighi knew a good tune when he heard it ...,
This review is from: Ancient Airs and Dances (Audio CD)
Respighi's three suites of "Ancient Airs and Dances" are pretty well-known and justifiably popular among music lovers, even non-specialist ones. But the 'ancient' bit was never really appropriate. He wrote his suites between 1917 and 1932 and they were arranged and scored for a 20th century orchestra. They are lush and smooth, and with the best will even the sprightliest of the 'dances' do sound a bit more like a casual stroll.
What you get in this recording are the original compositions that Respighi used as his inspirations. We're going back to Renaissance times, where the instrumentation is much more spare and raw, and there's a greater personal feel to the music. This is small group or solo music-making. The compositions and arrangements are less-polished, even if the performances themselves shine. Paul O'Dette is justifiably regarded as one of, or perhaps the leading lutenists of our time. The sound and recording is sharp, clear and well-focused. These are exceptionally enjoyable and really informative performances: it's fascinating to hear what existed before Respighi made his arrangements and adaptations.
So, which is better, the original or the re-arrangements? I honestly can't say. I have a strong liking for this style and period of music, but I'd also hate to be without Respghi. I can only say that I am so delighted to have these versions. They are strongly recommended to anyone who knows the Respighi or who likes Renaissance in general. Don't hesitate.