Where would we music lovers be without the Naxos label working doggedly to record the music of every deserving composer they can get their ears on? In this case, it’s the orchestral music of Italian composer Alfredo Catalani, best known as a composer of opera (most notably for La Wally), but who also produced some youthful chamber works, three symphonies and other smaller pieces for orchestra. This program contains five works by Catalani, including two world premiere recordings, Andantino (?1871) and the symphony, Il Mattino ‘Sinfonia romantica’ (1874). In addition to the brief Andantino and Scherzo, the major work on the album is Catalani’s beautiful symphonic poem, Era e Leandro (Hero and Leander) of 1884.
Catalani (1854-1893) studied composition at both the Paris Conservatoire and later at the Conservatory of Milan. Despite the growing trend in Italian opera toward the verismo style exemplified at the time by the work of Pietro Mascagni, Ruggero Leoncavallo and Umberto Giordano, Catalani maintained a manner that was rather more traditional. His style most closely resembles that of Puccini, with influences coming from Wagner and the French expression of Massenet and Gounod. He was a marvelous orchestrator and could be a rather daring harmonist, creating highly evocative and atmospheric music.
The sunny Scherzo of 1878, a piece that also exists in a form for solo piano, is the sample provided in the right sidebar. Quite different from this brief piece is Contemplazione, a sumptuous twelve minutes of aural velvet you can hear in the video below. All this music is beautifully performed by conductor Francesco La Vecchia and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma, the same team that has been bringing us the popular series of orchestral music by another Italian, Alfredo Casella. If you are not familiar with that series, do yourself a favor and check it out. There are plenty of sound clips to hear off the Casella page on the HBDirect website.
Alfredo Catalani is best known today for his opera La Wally, but he also experimented with a number of orchestral works, including three symphonies. Ero e Leandro, Catalani’s last orchestral work, evokes the dramatic tragedy of the Greek mythological lovers Hero and Leander who lived on either side of the Hellespont (the modern Dardanelles). The brief Scherzo is a sparkling piece while the Andantino is noteworthy for its fluid melodic line. The bel canto lyricism of Contemplazione contrasts with Il Mattino, a single-movement Romantic symphony divided into several clearly distinguishable sections.
Catalani (19 June 1854 – 7 August 1893) was an Italian operatic composer. He is best remembered for his operas Loreley (1890) and La Wally (1892).
Francesco La Vecchia
“… If it is true that the history of Italian music has been crossed by interpreters who have shown the world the pride of the culture of our country, it is equally true that, for conducting, this was found in the Teacher Francesco La Vecchia the ultimate expression of that pride and that innate artistic talent and skilled … “
Orchestra Sinfonica de Roma
Just ten years since its inception, has always operated in the absence of public funding, the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma is already considered by international critics as one of the most qualified European symphony orchestras.