Neschling’s Most Memorable Respighi Yet

Review by: David Hurwitz

RespighiNesch

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

This is a wonderful program, both for the performances and for the intelligent overview it gives of Respighi’s art generally. It begins with a piece for chamber orchestra, continues with an intimate work for voice and string quartet, and concludes with one of the composer’s splashiest orchestral blockbusters. The progression is logical, and makes an excellent hour-plus of pleasurable listening. It’s also sensationally well engineered.

In the Botticelli pictures, Neschling adopts leisurely (but never droopy) tempos that allow every detail of Respighi’s imaginative scoring to register. In The Birth of Venus, you can easily imagine how the violins’ ostinato figures actually trace the delicate peaks of the waves in Botticelli’s painting. It’s lovely and consistently ear-catching. Il Tramonto (The Sunset), after a poem by Shelley, showcases the art of Anna Caterina Antonacci. Best known for her Monteverdi recordings, she’s a fine singing actress. Although voice tends to spread under pressure, her diction and way with the text is absolutely riveting, and Neschling paces the piece perfectly (about sixteen and a half minutes).

All of which brings us to Church Windows, still something of a rarity–in concert at least. If this performance doesn’t quite match the classic Ormandy/Philadelphia version in the blazing second movement (Saint Michael Archangel), it comes close enough as makes no difference, and it’s magnificently sustained and really powerfully recorded. The organ/orchestra balances in the last movement are just about perfect, while the bass frequencies in the closing pages are crushing. In sum, if you’re into this wonderfully colorful and entertaining music, don’t hesitate for a minute.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Church Windows (Ormandy/Sony)


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