Mascagni In Concert
MASCAGNI L’apoteosi della cicogna. Visione lirica. La gavotta delle bambole. Danza esotica. Ave Maria. 1 Padre nostro. 2 Mein erster Walzer. Serenade. 3 The Eternal City : Suite • Gianandrea Noseda, cond; 1-3 Luciano Ganci (tn); Filharmonica ‘900 Teatro Regio Torino • CHANDOS 10789 (61:44)
“Mascagni in Concert” is an entry in Chandos’s valuable series of 20th-century Italian orchestral releases. Casella, Petrassi, Dallapiccola, Wolf-Ferrari, and Rota discs have previously been issued, all conducted by the excellent Gianandrea Noseda, whose phenomenally busy recording career has reached Neeme Järvi-like proportions.
Mascagni composed short works for orchestra throughout his career, in between composing operas, moments of which are echoed in all of these works. The disc presents the music in more or less the reverse chronological order of composition, opening with the two most interesting compositions. (See the headnote for the program order).
In his final orchestral work, L’apoteosi della cicogna (Apotheosis of the Stork) composed in 1930, Mascagni’s creation of a few melodically accessible motives, subtly harmonized and masterfully orchestrated, achieves the awe-inspiring effect that so much movie music aims for. If L’apoteosi would work perfectly as background for the opening credits of an inspirational, big budget Hollywood film, the gentler Visione lirica (1922), a miniature tone poem inspired by a Bernini statue depicting Saint Tesesa in a state of ecstasy, might well complement some of its tenderer moments.
The two skillfully crafted opening selections deserve some of the popularity of Mascagni’s greatest hit, the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana (1890), which isn’t officially part of Noseda’s program, but makes a reworked appearance in the form of an Ave Maria setting for tenor and orchestra. It, the songlike Padre nostro (1881), and the Serenade that’s part of the Eternal City score are sung with a feeling for the idiom, but not ideally well by the tenor Luciano Ganci. (The Ave Maria feels too quickly driven by Noseda).
After the impressive opening selections, the program offers lighter fare: the Gavotta , an orchestrated piano miniature, the Danza , an exotic character piece featuring a solo flute, and the two religious works with solo voice, each of which is quite melodically charming and well scored, if not of great import.
The disc concludes with a once lost, now rediscovered, 1902 orchestral score of Mascagni’s very ballet-like, melodically engaging suite of incidental music to The Eternal City , an epic play by the once popular English novelist Thomas Henry Hall Caine. Mascagni’s score concentrates on the play’s romantic aspects, rather than its theme of separation of church and state. It, along with the Ave Maria, Padre nostro , and the Serenade, receives its first recording.
I must confess that I’m only familiar with three of Mascagni’s 15 operas: Cavalleria, L’Amico Fritz , and Iris , each notably different from the other. ( Iris , a kind of cruelly decadent Madama Butterfly , has a lot of wonderful music and should be revived by a major American company.) Cesare Orselli’s very detailed, informative notes for this CD suggest that all of Mascagni’s orchestral pieces might be better appreciated if the listener is acquainted with such works as Il piccolo Marat, Guglielmo Ratcliff, Le maschere , and Nerone.
The Filharmonica ‘900 Teatro Reggio Torino was founded in 2003, at the initiative of the musicians of Turin’s distinguished opera orchestra. It is a first-rate ensemble, and Noseda conducts fluent, dynamic performances. Chandos’s sound is warm and detailed, and I can recommend this appealing CD.
FANFARE: Paul Orgel
Catalog Number: CHAN 10789
Composer: Pietro Mascagni
Conductor: Gianandrea Noseda
Orchestra/Ensemble: Filarmonica ’900 Del Teatro Regio Turin
Performer: Federico Giarbella, Luciano Ganci, Sergey Galaktionov