Marzio Conti

Respighi: La Boutique Fantasque

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The Orchestra Sinfonica del Teatro Massimo di Palermo under conductor Marzio Conti has issued a couple of discs on Germany's CPO label featuring works from Ottorino Respighi's oeuvre beyond his big tone poems. This one doesn't contain anything that will reshape the repertory, but this pair of pieces has something to offer fans of the composer as well as those interested in the whole question of how composers of the 20th century used music from the past. Both of these works are based on preexisting music. The first is the ballet La boutique fantasque (The Magic Toy Store), which might make a nice companion piece for the Nutcracker in a concert presentation. The story concerns a pair of dolls who don't want customer purchases to separate them. The individual numbers are mostly orchestral arrangements of pieces from Rossini's piano pieces collectively titled Sins of My Old Age, and they have a good deal of charm. Lightweight they may be, but the ballet was premiered by no less than Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1919, at the height of post-World War I modernism. LP collectors may recall the exquisite reading of parts of the work by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops in the 1950s, but Conti's graceful, good-humored readings here also fill the bill. The program is rounded out by Gli uccelli (The Birds), misidentified as a ballet (it has occasionally served as one but wasn't written as one) on the cover, but correctly described merely as a suite in the tracklist. These evocations of birds are arrangements of Baroque works by Bernardo Pasquini, Jacques de Gallot, Rameau, and an anonyous English composer, and they give the listener ears to hear Baroque music as it was heard by the early Italian researchers who discovered a lot of it. The performance here is a bit flat. The Super Audio sound is a draw, but the overwritten, not to say tortured booklet notes (in German, French, and English) are a disincentive. Certainly worthwhile for inclusion in Respighi collections.

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