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BPO's new record of Respighi works is a beauty

There's a new record by JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and it's a beauty. It's a traversal of Ottorino Respighi''s "Roman Trilogy" -- in other words, on one record Respighi's major music from 1916-1926:"Roman Festivals," "The Fountains of Rome" and "The Pines of Rome."

The latter two have been performed together on record since long before Maestra Falletta was born. Adding "Roman Festivals" to it makes it uncommonly interesting. It amounts to 10 years of music that has been unfairly condescended to as musical tourism.

That these are not quaint musical souvenirs is self-evident from the opening seconds of the first piece "Roman Festivals," beginning with an evocation of the "Circus Maximus." This isn't lovable portraiture of "the eternal city," but an immediate savage reference to the world-conquering Rome of the ancient world -- savage, military, cradle to civilized glory and rapacious ignominy both.

The performances of all these Respighi works by the Buffalo Philharmonic are splendid. Respighi is one of those unfortunate post-Impressionist composers who was, in his day, a vociferous musical conservative, and therefore wound up a jockey to orchestral warhorses in a combative and radical era.

[Related: See what's on tap for Falletta's 20th season with the BPO]

The great thing about the disc by Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic is that Respighi is that unusual composer who gains significantly by being heard in large quantity. The more you hear of him, the more variety, charm, mysticism and lyricism you hear in his music. Both the performances by the BPO and the sound quality of the disc are superb.

It will have to be played at a substantial volume level to get all of the dark pianissimos in, but the result of that will be that the fortes and fortissimos show off the BPO splendidly (for those with an affection for orchestral braggadocio).

Naxos' history of showing off the "big orchestra" capabilities of the BPO continues to be a marvelous and unexpected fulfillment of the orchestra's history as a recording entity.

Jeff Simon's list of the BPO's best recordings

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