Sergei Stadler (violin)
New Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by Joel Spiegelman
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: March 2002
CD No: MARCO POLO 8.225183
When it’s thought worthwhile recording a couple of unknown pieces by a forgotten composer, one wants to be positive. I can be, to a point, with the mid-nineteenth-century-sounding concerto, written in the twentieth!
Carlo Giorgio Garofalo (1886-1962), an organist and composer of sacred music, was born in Rome. His biography is sketchy. The (over-stated) booklet-note reports the symphony’s one performance was in 1915 and that the concerto also had an (undated) airing. Other Garofalo scores, including an opera, remain unperformed.
On this evidence, I wouldn’t rush to dust off more, which is perhaps a tad unfair given the concerto’s charms. Menotti’s lovely (and finer) VC is recalled, so too the intrinsic warmth and generosity if not the sympathetic contours of Max Bruch’s three concertos (Garofalo’s finale reminds of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy); there’s also the melodic ease (if not the distinctiveness) of Mendelssohn’s E minor. One’s affections for these pieces – and Dvorak and Glazunov’s concertos come to that – are not supplanted. Yet, Garofalo is unpretentious with some nice ideas; he does though contrive an unashamed borrowing from Tchaikovsky’s concerto at 2㤸” in the first movement. Sergei Stadler brings virtuosity, phrasal shapeliness and rich tone to his part.
As for Romantic Symphony … the opening could be Christopher Lee’s Dracula appearing – “Hammer Horror” credits with a ’crazed’ fanfare and ghoulish organ; the generally decent recording fights shy of the decibels. Garofalo’s harmonious well-being is again displayed without announcing a distinctive composer; more than likely one is considering his terms of reference. The first movement – which surely could have moved along a little quicker – meanders when it is not being portentous; generally the performance sounds rather tentative.
In the remaining movements, particular timbres and refrains catch the ear, but overall it’s thin stuff. The spectral scherzo intimates Russian fairytale – Rimsky-Korsakov or early (Scherzo fantastique) Stravinsky (with a recurring motif that’s dangerously close to Strauss’s Don Juan). The finale eventually reaches a full stop having alternated creepy atmosphere and noisy energy.
If you like an organ with your symphony, then it’s Saint-Saens 3. However, the musically curious will delight in Romantic Symphony’s colours and allusions, while the Violin Concerto certainly has enough grace to warrant interest.