Casella’s Third Symphony Again, Unbelievably

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

How is it that we live in a world where the record industry complains constantly that nothing sells, that the market for classical music is declining, and that profitability is impossible, and yet we see released in quick succession not one, not two, but three recordings of a wonderful but totally unknown classic by a major but sadly neglected composer? Is it fabulous, or is it insane? I guess it’s both. Not only do we now have three recordings of Casella’s Third Symphony, but all three of them are very good, if in slightly different ways.

The main competition from this Chandos series comes from Naxos. CPO also has a couple of Casella discs, and its version of the Third Symphony is fully worthy of comparison with these, but collectors interested in this excellent composer, a true questing musical mind with the talent to make each step of the journey rewarding and enjoyable, will want to follow one of the larger series. The main difference between Naxos and Chandos resides in the fact that Gianandrea Noseda’s performances are generally swifter than Francesco La Vecchia’s, but also less characterful, less gutsily played by the BBC Philharmonic than by La Vecchia’s Rome orchestra.

So it goes here. Italia is a passionate tone poem that begins “molto tragico”, and while it’s very well played, I can imagine a touch more weeping and wailing at the start. The later stages though, which feature the obligatory tarantella, are vibrant and exciting. On the other hand, the Introduzione, Corale e Marcia, for winds, percussion, piano, and double basses, receives a bold and rousing performance, as does the symphony.

This latter work, composed on a commission from the Chicago Symphony, is a masterpiece that asks for a virtuoso orchestra and covers a wide range of expression. Noseda and his players certainly rise to the occasion. This is a well plotted interpretation, featuring a rising crescendo of excitement after the first movement through the andante, scherzo, and finale. This concluding movement, a rondo, is quite episodic, and Noseda deserves credit for shaping a singularly cogent vision of the piece. The sonics also are excellent. Does anyone need three recordings of the symphony? Well, perhaps not, but I’m happy to have them.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: La Vecchia (Naxos)

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