To assert Francesco La Vecchia and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma's 2009 digital recording of Giuseppe Martucci's warmly romantic Symphony No. 1 is the finest ever made is not to over praise it. After all, there have heretofore been only two other digital recordings of the bighearted romantic work: an unidiomatic 2000 Kees Bakels account with the Malaysian Philharmonic and an ardent 1997 Francesco d'Avalos performance with London's Philharmonia. Yet La Vecchia and the Rome orchestra go deeper into the score than d'Avalos, and find more in it of Martucci and less of Brahms, the Italian composer's obvious model. Plus, La Vecchia has the inestimable advantage of having an orchestra that understands Martucci's harmonic and melodic language and is wholeheartedly dedicated to turning in the best possible playing for their countryman. The combination is unbeatable and this may be the performance that finally makes Martucci's reputation. The four other pieces here are less imposing but no less lovely, especially the achingly beautiful Nocturne. In short, anyone interested in fin de siècle European symphonies should by all means try this disc.
It should be noted, however, that the finest recording of Martucci's First remains Arturo Toscanini's 1938 monaural recording with the NBC Symphony. Though the sound is antique and though the conductor is his usual aggressive self, the brilliance, energy, and depth he finds in the work have never been matched.