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Luigi MANCINELLI (1848-1921)
Scene veneziane - Suite (1889) [36:07]
Cleopatra - Sei intermezzi sinfonici (1877) - No. 1 Overture [9:27]; No. 3 Battaglia d’Azio [12:03]
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma/Francesco La Vecchia
rec. Auditorium di Via Conciliazione, Rome, 27-28 November, 18-19 December 2011
NAXOS 8.573074 [57:37]

If the name of Luigi Mancinelli rings bells with you it is probably as an operatic conductor. Like Toscanini and Barbirolli he had started as a cellist, and it may not be too fanciful to imagine that the combination of the discipline of the pit together with experience of the stringed instrument with the most singing line will have stood all three in good stead in that most complex of roles. Mancinelli conducted all over Italy before going also to Covent Garden, the Metropolitan and the Teatro Colon among other international houses.
 
You may also remember the name for his four operas but the present disc offers instead one and a half of his orchestral works. The longer work, and that presented complete, is the Scene veneziane, a Suite in five movements depicting in turn the experiences of a couple meeting at a carnival, falling in love, visiting the coastal town of Chioggia, returning by gondola and eventually marrying. The music is colourful and, as you might expect, wonderfully well orchestrated. Right from the start there are reminders of the music of Respighi although as the latter was only ten when this Suite was written perhaps it would be more correct to say that Respighi’s music reminds one of Mancinelli. Either way the results are extremely enjoyable even if it is not the kind of music that burns itself into your memory.
 
I was however looking forward even more to hearing the music deriving from incidental music to the tragedy by Pietro Cossa, Cleopatra. I have had a set of parts of the Overture for many years - wrongly entitled there as the Overture to an Opera - which looked particularly intriguing. So it proved, from its quiet opening to other sections full of sound and fury. Like all the music on the disc it could be described as overlong for its ideas, but that it is well written and that the ideas are seldom dull is undeniable. There is understandably more sound and fury in the battle scene but here too there is a real sense of drama and storytelling. This is helped by committed performances and a recording which is never less than adequate in these often heavily scored works.
 
On the evidence of this disc I would hesitate to add Mancinelli to the top ranks of Italian composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century composers, but what is included here is certainly worth exploring if you have a taste for the music of, say, Respighi or Boito.  

John Sheppard