The foremost Italian orchestral composer of the late nineteenth century, as well as an accomplished
pianist and conductor, Giuseppe Martucci was one of the first of a line of composers, which included
Sgambati, Mancinelli and Faccio and, later, Casella, Malipiero, Respighi and Pizzetti, who were
determined to break away from opera's dominance in Italian musical life. If his First Symphony is
stylistically indebted to Schumann and Brahms, these models are never slavishly imitated. This is an
unusually wide-ranging Symphony for its time (1895), with its own individual voice, distinctive lyrical
gift and keen sense of fantasy.
Slowly but surely Giuseppe Martucci's orchestral music is making headway on CD. In 2007 Brilliant Classics reissued ASV's complete cycle, while my colleague Victor Carr Jr enthused over Symphonies 1 and 2 played by Kees Bakels and the Malaysian Philharmonic on BIS (type Q8314 in Search Reviews), and described the music succinctly and vividly. Naxos now enters the field with the first volume in a projected survey of the orchestral works.
On the plus side, Francesco La Vecchia elicits more incisive string playing and more penetrating woodwind articulation in the neo-Wagnerian First symphony than Bakels, aided by Naxos' rich, dazzlingly detailed engineering. On the minus side, the Rome musicians do not quite match their Malaysian colleagues' impeccable intonation and seamless ensemble blend. However, the shorter works delight without qualification.
The Andante Op. 69 No. 2 clocks in nearly three minutes faster than the weightier Francesco D'Avalos/Philharmonia Orchestra recording, and benefits from cellist Andrea Noferini's warm tone and fluid phrasing. By contrast, La Vecchia takes two minutes more than D'Avalos over the Op. 70 No. 1 Notturno, yet generates plenty of sustaining power and chamber-like textural diversity. A fine start to a promising cycle, warmly recommended. [4/13/2009] -- ClassicsToday.com, Jed Distler, April 13, 2009