VOICES Notes and news on Classical releases
06 APR 10 JASON SERINUS
Grace, elegance, and refinement -- all admirable qualities and dispensed with abundance in Ottorino Respighi's Ancient Airs And Dances & Trittico Botticelliano. In 1991, when Jésus López-Cobos recorded these works with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, Telarc was already using 20-bit, 128 times oversampling technology. It's just what these sonorous works need to help put them over the top.
Consisting of three 4-movement sets, composed between 1917 and 1932, the Ancient Airs And Dances are arrangements of late Renaissance and Baroque era Italian and French lute and keyboard pieces that Respighi discovered in collections published at the end of the 19th century.
Invigorated by the courtly civility of the works, Respighi retained their original melodies and harmonies while rearranging them for the richer sonorities of a modern orchestra. Their fresh coat of paint, increased depth, and tasteful shiny finish are near irresistible.
Respighi let his imagination soar even higher in his Trittico Botticelliano (Three Botticeli Pictures, or Botticelli Triptych) of 1927. Inspired by the patronage of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and the chamber music hall that she donated to the Library of Congress, he composed a 3-movement tone poem inspired by three different Botticelli paintings.
Far freer in form and sonority than the Ancient Airs And Dances, the works are a glorious example of Respighi at his most refulgent. Even with the second "picture," inspired by Botticelli's Adoration Of The Magi, revolving around the well-known Christmas song, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," the works are remarkably fresh and colorful.