Jesús López-Cobos

Resphighi: Ancient Airs and Dances; Trittico Botticelliano

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The three suites of Ottorino Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances are arrangements of Renaissance and early Baroque keyboard and lute pieces, arrayed with the sonorities of the modern symphony orchestra. With only a nod to archaic color in the addition of a harpsichord, Respighi runs riot with his palette of post-Romantic timbres. A liking for these pieces depends on one's historical perspective; since this kind of lavish scoring of early music was common in Respighi's day -- note several other famous arrangements by the likes of Elgar, Beecham, and Stokowski -- it may be excused by some as well-intentioned, if excessively puffed-up and sweet. Fans of authentic period practice may avoid these pieces, but they have remained popular among many others for their catchy tunes and will continue to win over ensembles because the orchestration is always flattering and gratifying. Trittico Botticelliano, inspired by Botticelli's paintings, Spring, Adoration of the Magi, and Birth of Venus, is in three corresponding movements and is almost wholly original with Respighi, except for occasional quotations of plainchant. The Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, brilliantly conducted by Jesús López-Cobos, is exceptionally vivid and clear in Telarc's spotless reproduction, so this is a fine disc for all who enjoy Respighi, and a guilty pleasure for those who won't admit it.

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