Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Malipiero, De Almeida, Mso|
Symphonies 3 & 4
Three superb "sinfonie"
Mark McCue | Denver | 12/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ever since I heard the Fenice Orchestra in Venice play the Malipiero "Sinfonia delle campane" I've been convinced that Malipiero's contributions to Western music have been on par with those of Stravinsky, Bartok, Casella, Roussel, and a few others.The "Campane" is evocation music plus prismatic content that deepens every time you hear it. It's a masterpiece. The "In Memoriam" sinfonia for Natalie Koussevitsky sounds better than it promises on the page; here Malipiero finds a rather nude style that nods toward Casella's neoclassicism but leaves it as a study and an exercise, a technique for this specific memorial. The exercise is superb.The early "Sinfonia del mare" is a contemporary of Debussy's "La Mer" but that's where the similarity ends. Malipiero's sea is definitely that stormy place where the lapping Adriatic meets the raging Ionian of the Calabrese coastline--breathtakingly beautiful and at a turn, violent. Aside from little "themelets" stuck in and around in arbitrary places, this sea music outdoes and outdeepens Ibert and Debussy whose unfortuante familiarity has made them a little tiresome. Almeida is a distinguished choice for conductor: he's really plumbed the depths. While the Moscow Symphony is not the most refined, it is more than just a two-star conveyance.Be prepared to be enchanted."
The strikingly original symphonies of Malipiero
Discophage | France | 02/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Marco Polo, Malipiero specialist and friend John Waterhouse, and Antonio de Almeida must be warmly thanked for bringing to the public works as uniquely original and personal as the Symphonies of Malipiero. I've enthusiastically reviewed other instalments in this series, published in the mid 1990s (Malipiero: Symphony No.7/Sinfonia in un tempo/Sinfonia per Antigenida, Gian Francesco Malipiero: Symphonies Nos. 5, 6, 8 & 11, Malipiero: Symphonies No. 9 dell'ahime, No. 10 Atropo, Sinfonia dello Zodiaco), and I am no less enthusiastic with this one.
As I wrote in my review of Symphonies 9 & 10, one of the most remarkable features of Malipiero's symphonies is their freedom from the dictates of any school. Some of them are bitingly dissonant (but always within the broad frame of tonality), at the service of great dramatic impact; some are surprisingly lyrical and pastoral. Malipiero's construction processes are oftentimes whimsical, as if one idea led to the other with no preconceived plan. But what might have been viewed as a flaw according to the canons of classical construction appears to me as one of his Symphonies' most endearing features: in a very baroque way, they are constantly surprising and never quite go where you expect them to.
The unnumbered Sinfonia del mare from 1906 - written when he was 24 - is one of his rare youthful works that Malipiero didn't repudiate. It is also quite an event to have it here recorded, for which John Waterhouse must be thanked, as it was still in manuscript form at the time of recording. It is a lush, late-Romantic work, evocative of Respighi or of the British and American impressionists such as Bax, Delius or Griffes - and in the climaxes, Strauss' Death & Transfiguration can also come to mind. It is not as subtly evocative of its subject (the sea) as Debussy's famous piece, nor as cogently held together but, as derivative and lacking originality as it may be, nonetheless it is an enjoyable specimen of late-romantic impressionism.
Malipiero's 3th Symphony, "delle campane" (of the bells), is joy and despair. It was written in 1944-5 and commemorates the taking over of Italy by the Germans, on September 9, 1943, a day when "the bells of St. Mark's Cathedral [in Venice] did not ring for peace but to announce new torments". The bells are evoked in various ways in the four movements, sometimes very graphically, sometimes in a very stylized manner, but always with a highly original orchestral inventiveness. Elsewhere Malipiero explained that hearing the bells of Venice ringing had offset the despondent mood created by the German invasion, and indeed, based only on its ebullient and rambunctious first and third movement, the Symphony could be subtitled "the Joyous". The first starts with a strikingly original orchestral tutti dominated by over-excitedly twittering woodwinds - a superb evocation of pealing bells. Later on the movement acquires more somber and dramatic overtones. Introduced by a little concert of harp, piano, celesta, tubular bells and triangle over which a perky trumpet melody develops, the third movement can evoke Petrushka's fair. Both have the ebullience and orchestral lushness of some Villa Lobos compositions. The slow, second movement begins with a pastoral, wistful and beautiful woodwind interplay - maybe Malipiero subconsciously remembered the transition music to the Church scene in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci - followed by an intensely lyrical surge of strings. Then (at 1:43 and again at 3:21) comes a short and striking passage for solo piano, sounding as if from a distance, dreamy like a middle-of-the night improvisation. Overall the movement is suffused with a plaintive, suffering lyricism that is reminiscent of some American symphonists of the same years, Barber for instance. As the 4th and 7th, the 3rd Symphony presents the formal originality of ending with another slow movement, and while the three preceding one were very compact, the finale is more extended. It starts as a somber funeral march but later evolves in the more pensive and wistfully lyrical mood of the second movement, until, at mid-point (5:13), it returns to a funeral-march ostinato, followed at 6:36 by a mournful English horn-oboe duet (I think) over string bass pedal, followed by ominous brass calls - a passage of Mahlerian intensity. But it is not over, and the music makes its way back to a triumphantly exuberant ending with bells pealing. This is a strikingly original and beautiful composition, and one of Malipiero's best.
Though not on the same level, the 4th Symphony also has many fine moments. It was composed in 1949, on a commission from the Koussevitsky foundation, hence its inscription and dedication "to the memory of Natalie Koussevitsky". Again, and as befits its subtitles, it contains more quasi funeral marches in its two Lentos (second and fourth movement), the first of these being specifically called "funebre", and the finale starting in the same mood with a mournful theme announced by English horn, then subjected to a series of variations that make it go through various moods and colors. The third movement, a short scherzo, is also quite impressive: based upon a rhythmic cell reminiscent of Beethoven's 7th Symphony, it is agitated, dramatic, menacing, unruly. The first movement is more predictable, with its quasi-marches of neo-classical vigor.
There is much competition on which to assess the interpretive merits of Almeida's reading. In fact, there is as good as none. However, I do have the AS Disc release of what is presumably the premiere performance by the Boston Symphony under Koussevitsky (from March 3, 1948). Not even mentioning the painfully harsh sound and constant acetate-originated clicks and pops, I find Almeida's interpretation not vastly inferior to the Bostonians. Certainly, the Moscow strings to even approach the intensity of the Boston strings - but I don't hear the intonation problems which I noticed in the later instalments of the cycle -, and in the 3rd movement, compared to Koussevitsky's tight forward-moving energy, Almeida appears a bit too relaxed. But the latter's more animated tempo pays dividends in the first movement, the Lento funebre benefits from his more, well, funeral approach, and he does a good job had holding the various strands of the finale together.