Respighi: Brazilian Impressions, La Boutique Fantasque - Neschling
BIS BIS-2050 SACD
Classical - Orchestral
RESPIGHI, Ottorino (1879–1936):
Impressioni bra siliane (Brazilian Impressions) (1927–28)
La Boutique fantasque, complete ballet score (1918) based on music by Gioacchino Rossini
Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège
John Neschling (conductor)
Ottorino Respighi is most celebrated for his vividly colourful symphonic poems, and above all the brilliantly orchestrated trilogy celebrating the landmarks and history of Rome: The Fountains of Rome, The Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals. Impressioni brasiliane, another triptych in a similar vein – although on a smaller scale – communicates Respighi’s impressions from the summer of 1927, which he spent in Rio de Janeiro.
The composer was fascinated by the popular music of Brazil, but also by the nature (the rain forests in the Rio area inspired the first part of the triptych, Notte Tropicale), animal life (a visit to the famous Butantan collection of poisonous snakes and spiders gave him material for the sinuous second part) and, naturally, the carnival, with Canzone e Danza painting a picture of riotous and colourful street festivities.
Respighi’s greatness as an orchestrator is evident not only in his original works, but also in his adaptations of music by other composers. One such work is La Boutique fantasque (The Fantastic Toyshop), composed in 1918 for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and performed more than 1000 times during the following few years. Respighi's score was based on piano pieces by Rossini, and it accompanies a plot centred on the love of two marionettes, the creations of a toymaker specializing in beautiful dancing dolls. In his shop the dolls perform various dances to attract customers – a tarantella, a Cossack dance, a can-can ... – providing Respighi with the opportunity to use every colour on his orchestral palette.
On the present disc we hear the complete ballet score, performed by the fine Liège Royal Philharmonic making their first appearance on BIS. Conductor John Neschling, on the other hand, is a BIS veteran, with superb credentials in things Brazilian (including the complete Choros by Villa-Lobos) and a recording of Respighi's Roman Trilogy placed firmly 'among the great versions of this music' by the web site ClassicsToday.com.
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Review by John Broggio - May 5, 2014
A welcome return to the studio from John Neschling in superb accounts of these evocative scores.
Opening proceedings is Impressioni brasiliane - a nice nod towards Neschling's (musical) heritage - and the results are wonderfully idiomatic. Both the playing and recording are outstanding, the evocation of districts of Rio de Janeiro & São Paolo respectively in the first two movements is testament to both Respighi's keen ear for mood and Neschling's ability to convey them to this crack Belgian orchestra. Both these movements are, perhaps, not the usual tourist depictions of these cities as lively "party" cities (Rio especially) but the concluding Canzone e Danza (based on Carnival festivities, albeit without overwhelming samba school drumming) is very much in keeping with popular stereotypes. The slightly sinister aspects to the music in the second movement (capped with a glacial quotation of Dies irae), reflects the collection of venomous animals in the Instituto Butantan that Respighi visited. The contrast that Respighi, Neschling & his Liege players conjure for the Canzone e Danza is incredible and delivered with a sense of joie de vivre combined with a poise that is joyful to the head and heart. The nonchalance with which the final bars are "thrown away" brings a smile no matter how many times one hears it in these hands.
The same qualities are brought to the main offering, La Boutique fantasque, yet another wonderful score for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (to whom every classical fan owes a large debt of gratitude). The Liege players wear their enormous virtuosity very lightly and Neschling never succumbs to the temptation for bombast (which the score readily allows for less sensitive hands). The BIS recording must stake a claim for a great deal of credit for the natural aural picture and wide dynamic range do justice to this delightful score in a way that was impossible prior to hi-res recordings. A lot of Neschling's work is seemingly invisible; it has the wonderful (but highly misleading) impression of just the odd "nudge" here or there. The name that keeps springing to mind is that of Thomas Beecham and the comparison is not to Neschling's disadvantage. The Liege players sound as though they are enjoying playing it as much this listener is hearing it. All in all, everything sounds as though it couldn't (even shouldn't!) be played in any other way, it really is tremendously exciting in both faster passages and the more reflective numbers.
This disc has been listened to with ever increasing joy since its UK release.
Copyright © 2014 John Broggio and HRAudio.net
Review by Graham Williams - May 21, 2014
When many of the Mercury Living Presence recordings were released on SACD a few years ago, it was a major disappointment to me that the outstanding disc Antal Dorati made with the London Symphony Orchestra coupling Respighi's 'The Birds' and 'Brazilian Impressions' was not amongst them.
However, 'The Birds' suite has since appeared on SACD in a quite serviceable version on CPO from Mario Conti and the Symphony Orchestra of the Teatro Massimo di Palermo Respighi: La Boutique Fantasque - Conti. Now at last we have the latter work (Brazilian Impressions) making its début on SACD in a marvellous BIS multi-channel recording conducted by John Neschling, whose departure as music director of the Saõ Paulo Symphony Orchestra in 2009 was a cause for regret; particularly in view of the outstanding recording he made with this orchestra of Respighi's Roman Trilogy Respighi: Roman Trilogy - Neschling.
Respighi's 'Impressioni brasiliane' is one of his most colourful, if rarely performed, scores. It was originally planned as a five-movement work during the composer's visit to Rio de Janeiro in 1927 where he conducted a series of concerts of his own music, but by his return in 1928 it had become a triptych.
The opening piece entitled 'Notte Tropicale' is a sensuous evocation of a sultry tropical night full of fragments of folk tunes and Brazilian dances. Neschling and the Orchestra Philharmonique Royal de Liège brilliantly convey the music's magical atmosphere, thanks both to his adoption of a relaxed tempo and a recording that allows every detail of Respighi's kaleidoscopic scoring to be heard. In contrast, the work's second section 'Butantan' recalls Respighi's visit to a snake research institute of that name near São Paulo where the venomous reptiles were 'milked' for the production of medicinal serum. It elicited from the composer a disturbing evocation of the slithering snakes (as indicted by the marking of woodwind passages in the score to be played 'strisciante') and Neschling's performance perfectly captures the nightmarish atmosphere . The final 'Canzone e Danza' lightens the mood with its infectious Carnival dance rhythms that in Neschling's idiomatic account could hardly be improved upon.
Neschling's version of the Rossini-Respighi ballet 'La Boutique Fantasque' again elicits top-drawer playing from his Belgian players and on SACD must now be a clear first choice. Though I would not like to be without Arthur Fiedler's celebrated Boston Pops recording from 1954 of just the suite Offenbach: Gaite Parisienne etc. - Boston Pops/Fiedler , nor Gianandrea's Noseda's exuberant performance of, as here, the full ballet a on a remarkably vivid Chandos CD, the magnificent sound quality of this BIS disc takes the palm. The sound stage is exceptionally wide and the clarity and crispness of the recording is perfect for demonstrating Respighi's translucent orchestration at its most imaginative.
Copyright © 2014 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net