Respighi: Feste romane and Pini di Roma (CD review)

Also, Rimsky-Korsakov: Le Coq d'or, suite. Lorin Maazel, the Cleveland Orchestra. Decca Legends 289 466 993-2.

Let's ignore for the time being the Roman Festivals, which are mostly noisy and bombastic, and concentrate on the late Maestro Lorin Maazel's interpretation of the Pines of Rome. It is among the best available.

Recorded in 1976, Maazel's performance is colorful, sometimes splashy, sometimes subtle, always vivid, and picturesque, everything you'd want from these miniature tone paintings. Maazel's rendering of them doesn't, perhaps, convey quite the individual expression of Fritz Reiner's classic set (RCA "Living Stereo" or the JVC XRCD remastering), but they come close. More important, they culminate in one of the best, most exciting versions of "The Pines of the Appian Way" you'll find. We hear the Roman legions first, of course, from a distance, their march coming closer and closer, sounding all the more ominous as they approach. When they reach our vantage point, the effect is staggering, especially if you have a good subwoofer.

Lorin Maazel
Paired with the two Respighi works we find an agreeably colorful reading of Rimsky-Korsakov's suite from Le Coq d'r, (The Golden Cockerel). It may not be the most exciting rendition around, but it does provide an all-around pleasant listening experience. The Cleveland Orchestra play terrifically well for Maazel, with plenty of professional enthusiasm evident.

Decca's 1976 sound for the Cleveland Orchestra didn't always impress me as much as Columbia's (Sony's) did in the old Szell days, but this transitional recording, remastered in Decca's "Legends" series in 2000 radiates much the same energy and presence. There is a decent orchestral perspective, decent front-to-back dimension, some small smothering of the mid frequencies, and tremendous bass.

Yes, tremendous bass, important in numbers like the aforementioned "Appian Way," as well as in the "Catacombs" and the "Epiphany" from Feste romane. Remastered in 96kHz, 24-bit digital sound in Decca's "Legends" series, the audio is perhaps a hair smoother and more transparent than it was in their older Ovation line, to which I compared it. And I much prefer the new coupling to that of the previous coupling, too.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa