Pini di Roma
Rossini, arr. Respighi
La Boutique fantasque
All recorded in Kingsway Hall, London – Impressioni brasiliane 18-21 March 1955, Pini di Roma 22 January 1957 & La Boutique fantasque 28-29 May 1959
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: January 2008
CD No: MEDICI MASTERS
Duration: 73 minutes
I suspect that Alceo Galliera (1910-1996) has somewhat fallen of the radar in terms of the music-loving public’s consciousness. In his booklet note for this release, David Patmore cites the store set by Galliera in discipline and virtuosity. Certainly, in these superb performances, the Philharmonia Orchestra is at its considerable best, playing with precision and style and responding wholeheartedly to Galliera’s painstaking preparation – a conductor of real flair.
But the story doesn’t end there – for in this of all music, there is also the need for much heart, colour and atmosphere. Galliera is not found wanting in any of these qualities, nor in refinement Indeed, The Pines of Rome and Respighi’s wonderful transformation (for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes) of Rossini’s piano music are here performed in thrilling and beguiling fashion. The opening of ‘Pines’ explodes into life, Galliera setting a propulsive tempo but never forcing the music, and while the occasional detail is lost (certainly when compared to Fritz Reiner’s Chicago version – although there’s not much in it), there is an all-pervading scintillation that grabs the listener and doesn’t let go. The languorous middle movements are ideally paced – flowing – to mix picturesque detail with musical continuity; indeed, Galliera’s timing is very convincing, not least in the marching Legions of the final tableau – garishness and bombast resisted.
Respighi was one of the great orchestrators, whether in the Technicolor wizardry of ‘Pines’ (and its Roman companions) or in the sheer elegance and clarity of the based-on-Rossini ballet. Galliera and the Philharmonia do this latter, quite superb, score full justice – and complete – with point, suavity and real affection. The stereo recordings, made in Kingsway Hall in 1957 and 1959, sound remarkably good – depth, presence and detail belying the 50 years since they were made.
Brazilian Impressions just missed out on being two-channel; a shame, but the mono sound is excellent, so to the performance, and fully conveys another of Respighi’s heady mixes of exotic melody and colour, and which leaves one in no doubt that Galliera (like Respighi) was a master of the orchestra. On the evidence of these recordings, it is fair to say that Galliera was underestimated and under-used (his discography tends to find him in an ‘accompanying’ role), surprising given that Walter Legge (the founder of the Philharmonia Orchestra and the producer of the Brazilian part of this release) apparently held him in high regard. I would urge Medici Arts to explore further Galliera’s catalogue, not least any radio recordings there may be: meanwhile, this release – the music, the performances and the sound – is giving your reviewer enormous pleasure!