Respighi: Sinfonia drammatica - Neschling

Respighi: Sinfonia drammatica - Neschling

BIS  BIS-2210

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Respighi: Sinfonia drammatica; Belfagor (Overture)

Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège
John Neschling (conductor)

Ottorino Respighi is primarily associated with his Roman trilogy, composed between 1916 and 1928 and celebrating the eternal city and its fountains, pines and festivals. Respighi was however a highly prolific composer – in most genres – and all of his orchestral works, composed both before and after the trilogy, display the qualities that have made the Pines and Fountains of Rome core repertoire in concert halls around the world.

After recording the Roman trilogy with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, John Neschling has continued to explore Respighi's lavish orchestral scores with the Belgian Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, on discs released to international acclaim: Neschling has been described as 'one of the finest advocates this composer has ever had, delivering all the fireworks and the depth too' (, and his musicians have been praised for displaying 'orchestral refinement on the highest level' ( On the team's third disc, the turn has come to Respighi's Sinfonia drammatica – a score of epic proportions (58 minutes plus in the present performance) for a correspondingly large-scale orchestra. Both these factors may explain in part why it is rarely performed and recorded, but the work also has a dark-hued, intense – and, indeed, dramatic – character which will surprise those only familiar with Respighi's more extrovert scores.

Closing the disc is the better-known Belfagor Overture, a work from 1924 in which Respighi rescued material from an opera with the same title which had been less than warmly received at its première in 1923. Described as a 'lyric comedy', the opera tells the story of how a devil – Belfagor himself – comes to earth to learn more about love between humans, and the orchestral overture highlights the two main characters, Belfagor and Candida, 'the girl, pure, loving and faithful'.

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Comments (11)

Comment by Euell Neverno - September 27, 2016 (1 of 11)

David Hurwitz in his review of this recording has this to say about SACD, after panning the performance:

"I don’t care anymore about SACD multichannel sound. The industry hasn’t supported the format to any degree, and I’m more than happy with good old-fashioned stereo."

Comment by john hunter - September 27, 2016 (2 of 11)

His idea of sound quality was always suspect so perhaps we should not be surprised.

Comment by Graham Williams - September 28, 2016 (3 of 11)

This is a magnificent MC recording and excellent performances of both works so it is worrying to see such an ill-considered comment from Hurwitz that does no favours to the SACD format as a whole.

Incidentally, it is worth noting that the LAWO label has now dropped SACD for any future releases.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - October 2, 2016 (4 of 11)

Notorious headphones only listeners don't care about multi-channel. Pure logic, isn't it?

Comment by hiredfox - October 3, 2016 (5 of 11)

SACD is not a multi-channel format only and it should not be described or promoted as such. DSD recorded SACD is currently the highest resolution recording format available and as such is the leading edge of high fidelity sound quality reproduction. David Hurwitz's ill-informed statement has rather stupidly done the pursuit of hi fi sound and the SACD format no favours at all and he has many followers who will take his word as gospel.

Comment by Stephen Wright - October 3, 2016 (6 of 11)

"I don’t care anymore about SACD multichannel sound. The industry hasn’t supported the format to any degree, and I’m more than happy with good old-fashioned stereo."

Apparently Mr. Horowitz doesn't consider Pentatone, BIS, MDG, RCO, LSO, Chandos, Harmonia Mundi, and dozens of other classical labels part of "the industry."

Comment by Ray Latham - October 12, 2016 (7 of 11)

Whether you like or dislike Hurwitz, he does have a point. SACD must be regarded as a commercial failure because it has been abandoned by its inventors, Philips and Sony. The emphasis on surround sound as the main advantage of SACD is the reason for that failure, because most UK and other European music lovers live (like me) in fairly small homes where the necessary extra speakers simply cannot be accommodated. That was also the main reason why the quadraphonic LP format failed.

Recently my old CD player was due for replacement. I found SACD stereo (when genuinely high resolution) sufficiently better than standard CD stereo to justify investing in a Marantz SA-14S1 player. This piece of kit has also given my CDs a new lease of life, which is just as well as more and more companies abandon SACD and even Chandos is patchy in its SACD support (many of its release are in CD format). I do not regret my investment and will continue to support Pentatone and the others: but the future probably lies in downloads.

Comment by William Hecht - October 12, 2016 (8 of 11)

Up to now I've refrained from joining this discussion because it has begun to resemble a thread from the old forum, tumbling down the rabbit hole. So I guess I ought to at least start on topic by saying that I think this is an excellent recording, both as a performance and as an example of what high quality multichannel sound can do to more closely approximate the concert hall experience.

The point is perhaps well taken that the abandonment of sacd by the "majors" has rendered it a commercial failure, but it's quick demise has been reported for at least the last five years and probably longer. Nonetheless when we count up the new classical releases for 2016 (excluding the Japanese reissue and minimal distribution releases) the total will be approximately the same 300 or so that it's been for several years. Yes, there are some ominous developments like Lawo exiting the market and more significantly Channel restricting sacd production to it's stars, artists like Fischer and Podger. But BIS has released over 50 new recordings in the last 12 months and Pentatone about 35 including the multichannel reissue series. Other, smaller, labels remain committed to the format.

As for whether sacd was mismarketed as a multichannel medium I can only relate my own experience. I started out with sacd stereo only but quickly made the switch after hearing a properly set up mc system. Would I have stuck with sacd had it been stereo only? Probably, but there's no way I'd have bought over 1200 discs on top of an existing collection of several thousand stereo rbcds. With the filling out of the repertoire on sacd I buy fewer discs now because how many Brahms 2nds do I need? On the other hand I've bought my 4th and 5th sacds of Tchaikovsky's 6th, because both conductors have decidedly individual, not to say idiosyncratic, views on whatever music they record, and specifically to support Channel and Reference in their ongoing work. Long may they continue.

Comment by john hunter - October 14, 2016 (9 of 11)

To correct the "record", the reason SACD is deemed not to have been successful, is not because of multi channel(after all ,its use in Blu ray and DVD , has been successful) but when originally released, there was a format war with Warner's DVD-Audio.
That put many off and SACD lost momentum.

Comment by hiredfox - October 15, 2016 (10 of 11)

It is undeniable that fewer and fewer people care about sound quality sufficiently to invest the time and money in pursuit of its 'perfection'. Indeed most people have forgotten how to listen to anything. There are too many competing distractions in today's time-starved gaming and lifestyle world. No market equals no products.

It will remain forever a mystery to we audiophiles why the rest of mankind "doesn't get it" but the uncomfortable truth may be that we are an insignificant outlying group of neurotic perfectionists who have lost sight of our own imperfections. I can live with that as long as like-minded souls continue to record music of a very high standard to feed my fetish. How can it be said that SACD has failed if it satisfies the needs of a single person?

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - October 15, 2016 (11 of 11)

During the last 10 years I've been told that SACD is dead. For the time being nothing is farther from the truth. Smaller companies do wonders. They seem to be more busy with music than money. I think most of us know who they are. I belong to those who appreciate the best and are prepared to pay a little bit more. I'm a multi as well, but I have enough space and no (close) neighbours. In the end we may have to prepare for physical copies to be replaced by DSD MC downloads. And if all that fails then there is nothing left but the concert hall.