Di Vittorio makes Respighi works shimmer

Ottorino Respighi is known for his brilliant orchestrations — but for most listeners, that knowledge is based on his Roman trilogy of tone poems. Salvatore Di Vittorio and the Chamber Orchestra of New York dig a little deeper into the composer’s catalog. Their discoveries reaffirm Respighi’s reputation, while providing an enjoyable listening experience.

The Suite in G for strings and organ is an early work, yet Respighi’s genius for orchestration is already in place. This would be an excellent companion piece to Saint-Saen’s Third Symphony, although Respighi’s neo-classical work might sound a little understated in comparison.

The Seranta is a short, simple work that still manages to dazzle with its imaginative orchestration over the course of its five-minute playing time.

Gli uccelli (The Birds), like Respighi’s more famous tone poems, show the composer’s skill at painting with music. Respighi incorporates bird calls into the music, but in this performance their recognizable, but not overdone. Rather, the calls were fully integrated into the music presenting impressions — rather than literal interpretations of — the birds depicted in each movement.

The Trittico botticelliano is (in my opinion) the strongest work on the album. Maestro di Vittorio and his ensemble deliver a spirited performance of “Spring,” the first movement. “The Adoration of the Magi,” the middle movement is played with sensitivity and delicacy, and the finale, “The Birth of Venus” fairly shimmers in places.

The Chamber Orchestra of New York is a group of young players, and sometimes that shows. Sometimes the strings lacked precision in more active passages, and there seemed to my ears to be some slight intonation problems in the Seranata. Still, they play with a very rich and warm sound, which is especially gorgeous in the slow movements. Performing these works with a chamber — rather than full — orchestra gives the music a feeling of transparency. It was a sound that seemed perfectly suited to these works.

Ottorino Respighi: The Birds, Trittico botticelliano, Serenata, Suite in G for organ and strings
Chamber Orchestra of New York; Salvatore di Vittorio, conducctor

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