Wilson’s Respighi: Not Bad, Not Great

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 9

I wish I understood what Chandos is thinking. They have this music in their catalogue already. There are a million other versions of it, some outstanding. This newcomer features a conductor with no special pedigree or audible affinity for this repertoire, at the head of what is, in effect, a pickup or studio orchestra. Can they play this stuff? Sure. Do Wilson or his players demonstrate any outstanding flair or enthusiasm? Hardly.

They do offer speed, though. Wilson tends to adopt quick tempos throughout–sometimes frantically so–as at the start of The Pines of Rome, or the first and last sections of Roman Festivals. When the music gets louder he speeds up, when it gets quieter he slows down. Of atmosphere there’s previous little. The catacombs in “Pines” have no mystery, for example, while the concluding march (missing its tam-tam) has volume without splendor. The conclusion of Roman Festivals is similarly flat-footed. As I said, none of it is bad, exactly, but none of it is memorable either.

The Fountains of Rome goes best, perhaps because Wilson’s tendency to rush finds less of an outlet in the quiet, dreamy outer sections, while the quicker two middle parts flow naturally at the speeds he chooses and the textures are less intricate, more suited to his “play the surface and to hell with the rest” approach. Still, with so many superb versions of this music, who needs this?

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: All three tone poems together: Muti (Warner)

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