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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Respighi, Antal Dorati, Philharmonia Hungarica ‎– Ancient Dances And Airs Suites

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Today’s share, under the Cover 2 Cover series, looks at Ottorino Respighi’s three suites of Ancient Airs and Dances “for he lute” adapted for small orchestra. We know Respighi today mostly for his Roman Trilogy of tone poems, but he did dabble quite a bit in “re-purposing” the music of other composers: Rossini (la Boutique Fantasque and Rossiniana) and Rachmaninov (some of his Etudes-Tableaux) come to mind.

In addition to being a renowned composer and conductor, Respighi was also a notable musicologist. His interest in Italian music of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries led him to compose works inspired by the music of these periods. Respighi loved plainchant and Renaissance and Baroque music. His Ancient Airs and Dances suites are his most successful efforts to bring early music to his contemporary listeners, in terms of the taste and imagination of his arrangements as well as audience appeal. Largely deriving from Italian and French music for the lute, the original melody lines and pieces come from seventeenth and eighteenth century. The piece consists of three suites of four pieces each, the first two for orchestra and the third for strings. (All three suites were made into a ballet shortly after Respighi's death by his wife and student, Elsa, in 1937.)

The 1958 Dorati version, with the Philharmonia Hungarica, is exquisitely well played and very well recorded. The resulting product, a ravishing, hauntingly beautiful record. The tempos are natural and gay, sad when they have to be, but always natural. The playing is never rushed, always andante cantabile.

Happy Listening

Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879 –1936)
Antiche danze et arie per liuto (1917-32)
Suite No. 1, P 109
Suite No. 2, P 138
Suite No. 3, P 172
Philharmonia Hungarica
Antal Dorati, conducting

Mercury Living Presence D 135538
1958, reissued 1992


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