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Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
L’apoteosi della cicogna (1930) [4:16]
Visione Lirica (1922) [4:01]
La gavotte delle bambole (1900) [2:42]
Danza esotica (1891) [8:03]
Ave Maria (1894) [3:07]
Padre nostro (1880) [4:37]
Mein erster Walzer (1887) [9:27]
Serenade from The Eternal City (1902) [3:04]
Suite from The Eternal City (1902) [21:48]
Luciano Ganci (tenor); Federico Giabella (flute); Sergey Galaktionov (violin)
Filarmonica ’900 Teatro Regio Turino/Gianandrea Noseda
rec. Auditorium RAI “Arturo Toscanini2, Turin, 26-28 September 2012
text and translations of the vocal items included
CHANDOS CHAN 10789 [61:44]

For most music-lovers the name Mascagni evokes first the words Cavalleria rusticana, followed, usually after a long gap by L’amico Fritz and then maybe even Iris. His dozen or so other operas are given at best very occasional performances. To all intents and purposes Mascagni was a one work composer, and that a work written over half a century before his death. When you add to that the unsavoury reputation he gained in his latter years as a Fascist supporter it is unsurprising that discs of his non-operatic works are rare. The present admirably played and recorded disc is therefore to be welcomed even if not much of the music on it is of the highest quality.
 
Chandos ensure that we do not forget the composer’s best known work by including an Ave Maria arranged from the Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana. Although interesting as a curiosity it is hard to take it seriously although I note that Cesare Orselli in his otherwise admirable booklet notes describes it as “a splendid jewel to (Mascagni’s) limited output of sacred works”. The other sacred work included here is a charmingly naïve Padre nostro for voice and strings written when he was a student.
 
The major work on the disc is a Serenata and Suite from the incidental music for the play The Eternal City by Sir Thomas Hall Caine. The play was an adaptation of one of the author’s novels set in Rome during the late nineteenth century. It ran for over 117 performances at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London and the music was published in a piano version arranged by H. M. Higgs but apparently the orchestral score has only been rediscovered recently. The resulting Suite is very obviously theatrical in character, often reminding me of the kind of generic music published a few years later for silent films - “for love scenes”, “for tragic scenes”, “for chases” and so on. In the published version for piano each movement is preceded by a brief description of the action which confirms that this rather naïve illustration of the play was essentially the composer’s approach. It makes pleasant if hardly compulsive listening even if it does add to our picture of the composer. Too much of it is slow and unvaried to retain interest throughout its length. Like so much of the music on this disc, the Serenata, which also comes from The Eternal City and has fairly dire words by Hall Caine, could take its place in Cavalleria rusticana without incongruity.
 
Mein erster Walzer is more interesting than the title might suggest. It is essentially a short varied Suite rather than a waltz which could be danced to. It has a slow introduction and a lengthy violin solo, and could easily find a suitable place in lighter concerts. So too could the Danza esotica with its showy flute solo. The remaining items are of lesser interest and do little to suggest that Mascagni deserves further investigation as an orchestral composer.
 
As a whole this disc adds usefully to our knowledge of the composer without suggesting that his popular reputation needs to be revaluated. The orchestra play with apparent conviction and the recording is more than adequate. This is a useful and generally enjoyable disc but not one of very great musical interest.  

John Sheppard
 

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