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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars

on 18 December 2014
This symphony, which I had never even heard of, let alone heard, is a major surprise. It is lovely and melodic, particularly the "mesto" second movement, while the faster movements are fiery and interesting. The recording and playing (under the excellent Francesco La Vecchia) are top drawer. The Cola di Rienzo overture is also attractive.

For those who haven't sampled his work, La Vecchia has been making good quality recordings of little known Italian symphonic works of the late 19th and 20th centuries - many of them very interesting - for those with no previous experience of Italian romantic symphonies I would recommend Casella No 2 as a starting point. The Sgambati symphony is also a worthy addition to his collection.
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on 20 October 2015
great. wish I could find symphony No. 2
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on 15 March 2017
I would place this close to the top of my list of obscure symphonies, if you enjoy mid-romantic period symphonies there's a good chance you'll love it. The outer movements have plenty of fire but it was the very beautiful slow movement that drew me in. Although other reviewers may compare it to other composers I found plenty of originality here. In playing it a few times I feel it is the kind of work that will grow in the mind with repeated listening. Above all it is tuneful and easy on the ear, with some rich orchestration. I get the impression the composer put a great deal of energy and ideas into the work; certainly it seems more inspired than his second symphony.

The overture is also an interesting piece. I found the playing to be passionate and committed and am very impressed by the recording quality, it is one of Naxos's better ones sound-wise.

Some of my purchases of obscure symphonies have been punts that have not quite come off (Gounod springs to mind), but then every now and then you come across a Sgambati, Vorisek or Ippolitov-Ivanov to sweep you off your feet. Go for it!
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on 16 April 2017
It would be foolish or presomptous to add a comment to the - excellent - preceeding ones , except that to hope that meastro La Vecchia could be persuaded to record also Sgambati's 2nd symphony . I listended to it on Youtube , and it sounds like a great , if sadly neglected , masterpiece .
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on 6 January 2013
Over the years I've discovered composers who have been neglected unjustly and I have become obsessed with them and their music; Wilhelm Stenhammar was such a one. Well, here's a new one for me. I'd heard Sgambati's name as an Italian who didn't write operas (like Martucci) but I swear I'd never heard a note of his music. So, I gave this one a try and truthfully was gobsmacked by the beauty of the music. Giovanni Sgambati (1841-1914) wrote mostly instrumental music -- symphonies, chamber music -- and one Requiem Mass. This was highly unusual in mid-19th century Italy where opera was king; for instance, the first performance in Italy of Beethoven's 'Eroica' Symphony was in 1867 a full 62 years after its premiere! And Sgambati was its conductor. His music was praised by Wagner and Liszt. But as far as I know it sank without a trace, at least outside Italy. This recording of his first symphony and of an early overture is music of unfailing beauty, impeccable craft and discernible personality.

The CD starts with a work from 1866, the Cola di Rienzo Overture, which was never performed and whose manuscript was only recently discovered in a Rome library. It is simply gorgeous. The work presents a fecundity of music ideas which Sgambati was perhaps not able to control adequately formally, but it is highly melodic and emotionally moving. In particular one notes in some sections a touching serenity that one hears again in the Symphony.

The first of Sgambati's two symphonies was written in the mid-1880s and although there is much that sounds Germanic, especially as to formal working of the musical materials, the melodies are often recognizably Italianate, with long cantilenas and phrases that reflect Italian prosody. The work is in five movements: fast-slow-fast-slow-fast. And it brims with hummable melodies. The orchestration is masterly, especially in the middle movement, the Scherzo, which in places sounds a bit like Berlioz. But it is the slow movements where Sgambati really shines. This is music that sticks in one's aural memory.

Francesco La Vecchia, the conductor who has already recorded much of Martucci's music, e.g. Martucci: Orchestral Music Vol.1, does us a real favor by bringing us these luscious scores. I can only hope that we will get a recording of more of Sgambati's orchestral music in the not-too-distant future.

Heartily, even urgently, recommended.

Scott Morrison
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on 21 September 2014
Just loved it. I am now awaiting the arrival of the latest album, Sgambati: Piano Concerto (Francesco Caramiello, Fabrizio Ventura) Tactus.
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