Church Windows & Brazilian Impressions/Respighi

March 10, 2009

brazilian-impressions-photo1While Respighi wrote numerous works for over 30 years including opera, ballet, vocal, choral, chamber, and concerto works, he is primarily known for his three symphonic poems about Rome. Festivals, Pines, and Fountains have been recorded by many of the finest orchestras in the world and have given Respighi his name in the classical world. Yet works such as Church Windows and Brazilian Impressions deserve much more than just an occasional casual listen. Written during the 1920’s both works are fine examples of tone poems.

Originally written as a 3-movement piano prelude work, Ottorino added a 4th movement, orchestrated it, and with the help of a friend Claudio Guastalia named it Church Windows with appropriate stained-glass windows of artwork as titles for the individual movements. Keep in mind that all of this was done after the completion of the work so there was no real inspiration because of a particular work of art. “The Flight Into Egypt” is an overall solemn religious sounding work with almost birds in flight sounds from the clarinet, oboe, and flute. “St. Michael Archangel” immediately changes the mood to one of a tense battle. It features wind swirling, a majestic theme from the brass, and loud backing from the percussion. After the apparent victory there are some tranquil harp moments complemented by an off-stage trumpet. Short lived; the action yet rises again with the piece closing with an fff crash from a tam-tam. “The Matins of St Clare” is delicate in nature with a meditation type quality, overall serene and thought provoking. The final movement “St Gregory the Great” starts slowly with ominous chords from lower register strings along with brass calls. The music slowly builds into to a crescendo with an organ solo, giving it a religious feeling. It proceeds on a joyous note and ends in a grandiose conclusion.

Brazilian Impressions, written as a result of his first trip to Rio de Janeiro in 1927, the folk music Ottorino heard is nicely incorporated into this all too brief 3 movement, 18+ minute work. “Tropical Night” is a summer filled romantic nocturne featuring a wonderful melody that is everything you would think of if you were in Brazil on a romantic holiday with the exception of a lack of marimba percussion. “Butantan. In A Snake Garden near Sao Paulo” is a creepy memory with tambourine for rattlesnake noises, use of “Dies Irae”, and low slithering sounding woodwinds. “Song and Dance” brings about the vision of a couple in a cabaret performing a samba alone on a dance floor backed by orchestra and couples sitting at tables looking on.

This early 1984 recording from Chandos (8317) has a nice warm sound with good clarity and depth. It is available as a CD or as an MP3 or lossless download from Chandos as well as classics online. One to be explored if your taste is in tone poem works. Recommended

Performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Simon

Produced by B. Couzens
Recorded by R. Couzens
Chandos #8317
Track Listing:

CHURCH WINDOWS
1… The Flight into Egypt (5:35)
2… St Michael Archangel (5:47)
3… The Matins of St Clare (5:30)
4… St Gregory the Great
BRAZILIAN IMPRESSIONS
5… Tropical Nigh (9:40)
6… Butantan. In a Snake Garden near Sao Paulo
7… Song and Dance (4:04)

Total Time is 45:24

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