Sunday, February 8, 2015

Ottorino Respighi - Piano Music - Ancient Airs & Dances - Six Pieces - Sonata in F Minor - Three Preludes on Gregorian Melodies - Konstantin Scherbakov, Piano - Naxos 1997

Greetings everyone. It has been quite a week here but I am looking forward to getting back on board and plan to offer up some rather tasty morsels over the following days. Anyhow, after an hour of obscure Soviet era symphonic music, a post containing something lighter (quite!) seems appropriate, something of an auricular chaser you could say. I have always been very fond of Respighi's music, both his own and needless to say his delightful and expertly orchestrated transcriptions and recomposed works. His love of early (especially Italian and French) musical styles is reflected in a large percentage of his output, and his music is typically colorful and I'd say always elegant. 

Respighi wrote very little original music for solo piano; after his mid-twenties nothing at all save the "Tre preludi". The 'Antiche danze..' are re-workings of material familiar from the three "Ancient Airs and Dances" orchestral suites, which are in themselves transcriptions from lute tablature as you all undoubtedly know. When wearing it's usual, sumptuous garb, this is music that I think is simply impossible not to like. As a suite for keyboard it's really quite enjoyable as well.  Up to a point, the movements are here rethought in terms of piano technique and sonority (showy keyboard-length arpeggios are added to the Siciliana taken from Suite No. 3, and broken chords stand in for the double-stopping in the same Suite’s Passacaglia) but for the most part the movements remain the same. It is the luxuriant and sinuous textures that are extracted, and what remains, or rather becomes audible-is a filigree architecture that is best revealed on the piano. It's a refreshing and I think rewarding experience to hear tunes from the popular and delectable suites this way. 

The Six Piano Pieces are attractive morceaux de salon, charming but perhaps somewhat slight at the same time (the 'Notturno' has a distinctly Rachmaninovian feel however). The F minor Sonata (1897–8) is a rarity, begun when Respighi was but 18 years old and displays melodic ideas that are rather Schumanesque. 

"Three Preludes on Gregorian Melodies" have delicacy, lyrical strength and a Satie-like modal serenity to them.   In their turn they too were later recast, as the first three movements of the orchestral suite "Vetrate di chiesa". Here the sober, long lines of the Gregorian melodies suit the piano extremely well. In my opinion this is the most interesting and distinctive music on the disc, yet of course I still find myself playing the Airs and Dances the most!



Anonymous said...

hello tzadik i never heard these played this way thank you very much

Tzadik said...

Hi, you are welcome, it's an interesting perspective I think, quite nice. TZ