- Orchestra: BBC Philharmonic
- Conductor: Gianandrea Noseda
- Composer: Alfredo Casella
- Audio CD (30 April 2012)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: CD
- Label: Chandos
- ASIN: B007KWD6K2
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 287,941 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Casella: Concerto For Orchestra [Orchestral Works Volume 2] [Chandos: CHAN 10712] CD
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This is Volume 2 in the series of orchestral works by Alfredo Casella, performed by the BBC Philharmonic and Gianandrea Noseda, with the pianist Martin Roscoe. The disc also forms part of the Italian Series on Chandos, in association with Ricordi Music and the BBC Philharmonic. International Record Review said of the previous volume: Anyone with more than a passing interest in this fascinating composer needs to have this remarkable disc. Albeit largely forgotten today, Casella was in fact one of the most important composers of his generation, possessing creativity in abundance, and rare technical skill. The earliest music on this disc, A notte alta (In Deepest Night), is Casellas only piece of programme music, inspired, the composer tells us, by sentimental events in my personal life. You do not need to look far to get a good understanding of what these events might have been: the dedication To Yvonne and the 1917 date on the solo piano version clearly indicate that they relate to his affair with a student, Yvonne Müller, who would become his wife after his first marriage was annulled in 1921. Unlike most Italian composers of his generation, Casella had no operatic ambitions in the early part of his career. It was not until after his return to Italy from Paris in 1915 that he began to take a creative interest in the theatre, and the result was La donna serpente. This operatic score has much in common with Mozarts Die Zauberflöte, from the magic and comic elements to the heroic rescue of a beautiful young woman, in this case a half fairy-queen condemned to assume the shape of a serpent for 200 years. The Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 61 was written to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. It was performed for the first time by this orchestra in its famous concert hall in 1938.
Alfredo Casella was a highly intelligent musician and an inspiring teacher who was largely responsible for Italian music turning away from Puccini towards the revival of the classical style in the early 20th century. He's had little attention in the concert hall or much representation on disc until lately – and Chandos have here issued a second collection of his orchestral works played and conducted by the BBC Philharmonic under their Conductor Laureate, Gianandrea Noseda.
At its heart, A notte alta is an autobiographical musical poem that was inspired by his affair with student Yvonne Müller, who was the dedicatee and became his second wife. Personal experience surely tells on this music. It opens "on a winter's night, clear and cold, glacially insensible to human suffering," to quote the composer. The couple are represented by dominant and decorative themes clearly delineated on piano by Martin Roscoe, the nocturnal atmosphere and florescent scoring caught in a crystal clear recording. After the turbulent climax, with the winter night music restored, four cellos add a note of sorrow, suggesting the scene is no longer in the state previously outlined by its composer.
The Concerto for Orchestra of 1938 was written to mark the 50th anniversary of the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. A most appealing work, it is rigorously constructed and, as ever with Casella, brilliantly orchestrated. The first movement is vigorous and tender in turn with the second subject sweetly sung on strings, later by trumpet. An imposing Passacaglia follows where the big climax and descent into a set of magical variations is handled by Noseda with a sure touch, while the extrovert and tuneful finale befits the celebratory occasion.
Like many a composer faced with an operatic flop, Casella put together two series of Symphonic Fragments from 'La donna serpente' (The Serpent Woman), an opera that includes a heroic rescue and magic elements comparable to Mozart's The Magic Flute. A lovely Berceuse underlines the dream of King Altidor, and the noble Prelude to Act 3 movingly portrays his situation and that of his Queen, who has been turned into a serpent. In the concluding Battaglia (Battle), Casella's flamboyant music foreshadows the widescreen epics of Miklós Rózsa. For anyone inquisitive about what happened to Italian music after the death of Puccini, these forthright performances with all musicians on top form come thoroughly recommended.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
We have now the first recording of another extraordinary work, the Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 61. I only cite the opus number for its proximity to the Sinfonia. Written the same year as Hindemith's work, it does not really bear any of his influence. In fact, apart from fleeting glimmers of Honegger and Martinu, both of whom were contemporaries of Casella when he lived in Paris, this fierce statement does not seem redolent of a particular musical influence. It is both fiery and grave, but not meditative.
While not programmatic in nature, the meeting of forbidden lovers in A Notte Alta (just as in Verklarte Nacht) lies beneath this score. It harkens back to Expressionism: the music is decadent, sensual, and mysterious. The piano delineates the two lovers. This work is much more effectively conveyed than its equivalent on Naxos.
The Symphonic Fragments from Casella's opera "La Donna Serpente" are indeed programmatic. This fantasy concerns a cursed princess who is turned into a snake. The music is pleasurable, if forgettable.
It goes without saying that Noseda's conducting is faultless and the recording phenomenal. If any "label" can bring Casella into the mainstream of 20th Century composers, it is Chandos.
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