American Classics - Flagello: Piano Concerto No 1, Etc

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Born in New York in 1928, Nicolas Flagello began his career as a concert pianist touring widely in the States and Europe. During his student...
Born in New York in 1928, Nicolas Flagello began his career as a concert pianist touring widely in the States and Europe. During his student years he had also been a conducting pupil of Dimitri Mitropoulos, and in 1962 was appointed as Music Director of the Rome Symphony Orchestra. As a composer he studied with Vittorio Giannani, an American of Italian descent whose mentor had been Goldmark. It comes as no surprise therefore to find that Flagello inherited a cosmopolitan background, and on his death, at the early age of 66, he left a considerable catalogue of scores, the earliest dating back to his early twenties, though he was forty before he completed his first symphony. Looking back at a previous Flagello review I described his idiom as 'Korngold orchestrating Hindemith's thematic material', a description I would be happy to attach to the present disc. I could add 'Rachmaninov meets Hollywood' to set the scene for the First Piano Concerto, its opening in a rich and dramatic mood offering unlimited space for virtuoso solo display. Conventional relaxed Andante comes before we turn full circle for another shot of brilliant orchestral colours. For Dante's Farewell we are in the world of opera, the big scene highly rewarding for the solo soprano. The Saxophone Quartet Concerto - his last completed work - is highly engaging, its lyrical centrepiece offset by the wild conclusion full of spine tingling excitement. Performances are of mixed origin, but share the same degree of conviction, with soloists that are unfailingly superb, the gorgeous voice of Susan Gonzalez being a major discovery that I am itching to hear again. Sound quality is good, and has the bass drum ever been more realistically captured than in the finale of the saxophone concerto? One of the most enjoyable American music discs I have heard.

"David's Review Corner"
June, 2006

Nicolas Flagello was one of those composers who was a skilled craftsman, and very much a member of his "school", that school being American "neo" something-or-other (fill in the blank with either "classical" or "romantic", it doesn't much matter which). If you like the school, and there's plenty to like, then you will like Flagello. During the dark days of the 1960s and '70s, tonally speaking, facing little if any prospect of performance, he left some of his larger works in short score, hence Anthony Sbordini's sensitive orchestration of Dante's Farewell, a moving scena for soprano based on works by Mrs. Dante. It's a lovely, affecting piece that would have been wonderful had it been sung by someone with a voice far more appealing than that of Susan Gonzalez.

The First Piano Concerto is a bold, passionate, memorably tuneful work that takes its romanticism seriously. There's plenty of storm and stress, and my only quibble is that there doesn't seem to be any particular motivation for the piano and orchestra to divide the musical argument the way that they do. In that sense, it's an odd piece, but still a good listen. Tatjana Rankovich already has recorded Flagello's Second and Third Concertos, and she knows what she's doing, as does the orchestra under John McLaughlin Williams.

Best of all, though, is the Concerto Sinfonico, a late work dating from 1985. This has to be the best piece ever written for saxophone quartet and orchestra--not that there's all that much competition, but it really does work extremely well. The timbres that Flagello exploits are consistently ear-catching, the argument easy to follow but rewarding as well. The performance also sounds very comfortable--inside the idiom and aptly high-spirited. The Rutgers orchestra (of New Jersey) acquits itself proudly, and despite the different venues, the sonics are consistently good.

--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Release Date: June 20, 2006

  • UPC: 636943929629

  • Catalog Number: 8559296

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: ""

  • Composer: Nicolas Flagello

  • Conductor: John McLaughlin Williams, Kynan Johns

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: New Hudson Saxophone Quartet, Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, Ukranian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Avi Goldrosen, David Demsey, Paul Cohen, Susan Gonzalez, Tatjana Rankovich, Tim Ruedeman


  1. Concerto for Piano no 1, Op. 7

    Composer: Nicolas Flagello

    Ensemble: Ukranian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Tatjana Rankovich (Piano)

    Conductor: John McLaughlin Williams

  2. Dante's Farewell, Op. 37

    Composer: Nicolas Flagello

    Ensemble: Ukranian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Susan Gonzalez (Soprano)

    Conductor: John McLaughlin Williams

  3. Concerto sinfonico for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra, Op. 77

    Composer: Nicolas Flagello

    Ensemble: New Hudson Saxophone Quartet, Rutgers Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Paul Cohen (Soprano Saxophone), David Demsey (Tenor Saxophone), Avi Goldrosen (Alto Saxophone), Tim Ruedeman (Baritone Saxophone)

    Conductor: Kynan Johns