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Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Giga [1:19]
Allegretto vivace [2:01]
Sonata in D minor (1897) [21:01]
Sei Pezzi (1901-2) [26:35]
Cinque Pezzi (1906) [20:49]
Emy Bernecoli (violin), Massimo Giuseppe Bianchi (piano)
rec. 3-5 Sept 2012, Church of St. Apollinaire, Monticello di Lonigo, Vicenza.
NAXOS 8.573129 [71:45]

Italian composer Ottorino Respighi from Bologna is best known for the exuberant Roman Trilogy. On this CD violinist Emy Bernecoli with pianist Massimo Bianchi expose his wavering idiom and trial-and-error attempts to find his own voice as a student at the Liceo musicale in Bologna. Rooted in German romanticism with impressionistic shadings, Respighi’s music here is melodic and reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov, Martucci and Debussy. 

As a duo Bernecoli and Bianchi are known for their recordings of the works of the great Italian composers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Here, both performers demonstrate individual flare along with joint integrity and unforced collaborative intuitiveness. 

With the light and airy notes of the Giga and Allegretto vivace, Bernecoli gives a depth and definition which is matched by Bianchi’s crisp punctuation. Her full tone never becomes wispy or gravelly and her vibrato is noteworthy for its evenness and naturalness.
Schumann’s Sonata in D minor, Op. 121 was an undeniable influence for Respighi’s own Sonata in D minor, composed in 1897. Respighi borrowings including Franck’s harmonic freedom do not get in the way of this self-assertive piece burgeoning with urgent vitality. Bernecoli performs the long, sweeping lines with integrity while voicing the youthfulness of this piece.
From Respighi’s Sei Pezzi (1901-2) Bianchi plays the melting figurations of the Berceuse in D minor and Leggenda in G minor from the Sei Pezzi with delicacy and grace. There are elements of the salon present along with Respighi’s lavish mellifluousness. In Parisian fashion, the Valse caressante in D is sophisticated, airy and flirtatious as the notes skip off Bernecoli’s strings.
Published in 1906 by Edition Mozarthaus in Vienna, Respighi’s Cinque Pezzi opens with an unfolding violin melody placed over a layer of sturdy, repeated piano chords. Contrastingly, the Aubade in D is skittishly gypsy, frivolous and filled with gaiety. Bernecoli gives every appearance of relishing the trills and the darting flashes of vibrant colour. Quiet and serene, the Berceuse,played by a muted violin, offers dulcet tones and tinkling embellishments. The disc, and this sequence, is rounded out with a sonorous Humoresque in G in which the composer’s talent as a composer of ardour and integrity of feeling begins to emerge.
Unfortunately, on this recording the violin seems to be rather too much to the fore. In the SonataBianchi’s lyrical swells are overshadowed by an imperiously balanced violin. This sometimes pierces rather than picks its way through the harmonic backdrop and often jostles for dominance. However, let me not dissuade too much. This CD offers Respighi admirers a rare opportunity to hear the very early thoughts and ideas which would shape his late style.  

Lucy Jeffery