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MALIPIERO: Symphonies Nos. 1-11; “Sinfonia del mare”;...

MALIPIERO: Symphonies Nos. 1-11; “Sinfonia del mare”; “Sinfonie del silenzio e de la morte”; “Sinfonia in un tempo”; “Sinfonia per Antigenida”; “Sinfonia dello Zodiaco.” Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Antonio de Almeida, conductor. Marco Polo 8.223602-8.223604; 8.223696-8.223697. Five CDs.

This set of the complete symphonies of Gian Francesco Malipiero (only an early, unpublished work is missing) handily accomplishes its main goal: exposure for an impressive, inventive body of work that is largely overlooked. Beyond that, however, the results are questionable, with rough and ratty orchestral execution and generally plodding conducting.

The Venetian Malipiero’s symphonies, dating from 1906-1969, range widely in style, from tonal to atonal, from plainly programmatic to learnedly abstract, from lush and lyrical to arid. The symphonies Nos. 1-7 (1933-48) make up the strongest, most homogeneous group, written in an accessible, motivic idiom, rhythmically busy and piquantly scored. A standout is the Symphony No. 5, “Concertante in Eco,” with its prominent parts for two pianos, piccolo and percussion, rugged counterpoint and peppery harmonic language.

Dabblers might try the disc that includes the early “Sinfonie del silenzio e de la morte,” which draws on Debussy and Rimsky-Korsakov; the Symphony No. 1 “in quattro tempi, come le quattro stagioni,” a pastoral, neo-classical work evoking the four seasons; and the Symphony No. 2 “elegaica,” with its affecting nobility. The Muscovites manage these three pretty well. Some of the later symphonies seem meandering at times--Malipiero’s late music does have that reputation--but hardly dull, and better performances would no doubt do them (and all of this worthy music) a lot of good.

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