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Culture: Classical CD reviews: The reserved and scholarly side of Respighi; Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances, Trittico Botticelliano -- Lausanne Chamber Orchestra (Telarc CD-80309).

Byline: Christopher Morley

Perhaps best-known for his concert-hall orchestral blockbusters such as The Pines of Rome (recorded song of a nightingale and all) and The Fountains of Rome, Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) also had a more reserved, scholarly side to him.

Much of his work involved researching the compositions of his Italian predecessors from the distant past, the most famous result in this field being his Rossinian goody-bag score for the ballet La Boutique Fantasque.

But he also undertook more serious explorations, making performing editions of many Renaissance and Baroque works, and creating his own compositions arising out of transcriptions of composers who might otherwise have lain forgotten.

The three sets of Ancient Airs and Dances bring to our attention a whole range of Italian and French lute or keyboard pieces from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries by a variety of composers. Respighi handles them with loving respect, scoring them for chamber orchestra with a praiseworthy lightness of touch (sometimes even including a harpsichord for 'period' flavour), and their performances from conductor Jesus Lopez-Cobos and the lithe Lausanne Chamber Orchestra are equally well-proportioned and affectionate.

This pleasant medium-price Telarc reissue also brings the wonderfully nostalgic Botticelli Triptych, ruminations for small orchestra (including piano) on the great painter's Spring, The Adoration of the Magi and the serenely incandescent The Birth of Venus.

The central of these is beautifully Christmassy, with its grave recourse to the ancient plainchant 'Veni, Emmanuel'. At the end of the movement Respighi also quotes the tender Italian carol 'Tu scendi dalle stelle', something I think no English commentator has ever pointed out - but then, my mother did use to sing it to me in my cradle (and the Springfields made a nice seasonal hit out of it later).


Ottorino Respighi
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 18, 2005
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