Monday 24 June 2013

Orchestral works by Giorgio Ghedini in performances by Francesco La Vecchia and the Orchestra Sinfonica Roma on a new release from Naxos

Giorgio Federico Ghedini (1892-1965) was born in Cuneo, Italy in 1892. He studied organ, piano and composition in Turin, before graduating in composition in Bologna under Marco Enrico Bossi (1861-1925) in 1911. He worked as conductor for a certain time before devoting himself to teaching.

After teaching composition in Turin and Parma he became director of the Milan Conservatory from 1951 to 1962. His pupils included Claudio Abbado, Luciano Berio, Guido Cantelli, Niccolò Castiglioni, Carlo Pinelli, and Fiorenzo Carpi.

Most of Ghedini’s published works date from after the late 1920s and are often inspired by music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, but combined with a very personal language. He wrote a large number of chamber, vocal and choral works as well as a number of operas, including a one-act opera based on Herman Melville’s novella Billy Budd first performed in 1949, two years before Benjamin Britten’s opera on the same subject.

Ghedini also wrote some fine orchestral works including concertos and the three works included on a new release from Naxos , Architetture - Concerto for Orchestra, Contrappunti and Marinaresca e baccanale.

Francesco La Vecchia  and the Orchestra Sinfonia di Roma  have recorded these works as part of their ongoing series of recordings of 19th and 20th century Italian composers.

Architetture (Architectures) – Concerto for Orchestra, the work that propelled Ghedini to the forefront of Italian music, dates from 1939-40 and certainly shows some of the influence of Stravinsky. The piano is dominant from the outset in this freely tonal piece. After a jaunty bouncing theme with woodwind and piano, there is a repetitive motif in a busy string passage before the brass enters in a bold fanfare like section. There are thunderous timpani and drum passages and some string intervals that even recall the sound of the American outdoors yet there is still an Italian voice here as though recalling Italy’s past. As the music progresses there are repeated piano chords over a static orchestra in an attractive extended section full of atmosphere.

Eventually a stabbing motif appears after which the woodwind enter to repeat and vary the phrase. This leads to a kind of brass chorale as the music does finally arrive at a kind of resolution.  The nature of Ghedini’s structure seems to preclude a sense of forward momentum or inevitability but the phrases and motifs and repetitions do hold the attention as does his rather singular orchestration.

Contrappunti (Counterpoints) for string trio and orchestra was written between 1960 and 1961 and gives an equal partnership between the string trio of violin, viola and cello and the orchestra.

In three movements, the Molto moderato e marcato opens with some intense string sonorities from the string trio before being joined by the strings of the orchestra. This is interrupted by a jagged motif before the music progresses by way of full string sounds to a fragmented section with stabbing phrases from the brass. Woodwind adds to the mix as this music scurries around with more of a sense of direction than Architetture does. A series of upward rising phrases for various parts of the orchestra are thrown around. The string trio appears but soon gives way to the full orchestra which continues with the opening theme, the music growing faster. The music slows and quietens before another upward string motif leads to rich string chords with the trio again being heard.

The Andante misterioso opens with a solo cello playing rich dark notes, eventually opening out, with the trio emerging, before the orchestra enters in this dark, strange music. As the music moves forward a plangent clarinet appears against the strings playing a dotted rhythm in this tragically beautiful section. The trio players weave around each other before the strings soar higher and higher to end.

The lively opening Allegro vivo has a rising motif for the orchestra before a lightly dancing string orchestra scurries around. Eventually the string motif is thrown around the orchestra, overlaid with a fuller orchestral sound. Rich strings propel the music forward to its energetic finale complete with timpani and percussion.

The Molto sostenuto e ampio of Marinaresca e baccanale (Sea Piece and Bacchanale) (1933) rises from the depths with the orchestra providing a terrific swell. This is wild nature music that owes little to any predecessor. Static, motionless music adds to the tension as the elemental sea glides by. Brass interject as the music heaves around with percussion adding colour. This is extremely evocative music with, occasionally, the sound of Sibelius in the pizzicato strings. As it works towards a climax the music falls back in a wonderfully atmospheric section, very beautiful, as the strings sway to and fro. Slowly the music calms as woodwind and brass draw this magnificent seascape to a close, building to a peak to lead into the Baccanale: Presto where there are rushing strings before brass lead the orchestra in this wild music. There is a quiet woodwind phrase before repeated brass phrases and striding strings, as though threatening. The theme moves around the orchestra but it is cut off as wild strings and the brass rise up leading to the coda.

Ghedini is certainly an interesting orchestrator with his distinctive layering of sounds.

This new disc is worth getting for the terrific seascape in Marinaresca e baccanale alone but I am certainly glad to have heard all of these pieces.

Francesco La Vecchia and the Orchestra Sinfonica Roma do a terrific job with these interesting works which are well recorded in the OSR Studios, Rome and the Auditorium di Via Conciliazione, Rome. There are very informative booklet notes.

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