RESPIGHI: Music for Piano, Four Hands: Gosdemlan. Waltz in C-sharp minor. Ancient Dances and Airs Suite No. 2). Six Little Pieces.

RESPIGHI: Music for Piano, Four Hands. Adriano Bassi, Massimo Palumbo, pianists. BONGIOVANNI GB-5528-2 [DDD]; 47:08  
Gosdemlan. Waltz in C-sharp minor. Ancient Dances and Airs Suite No. 2). Six Little Pieces.

This CD purports to include all of Respighi’s original material for piano, four hands, the remainder consisting of transcriptions of works for other media. As the program notes so eloquently and elegantly put it, “It would be a mistake to think of Respighi’s four-hand piano transcriptions as works of great interest on their derivative kind, all the more so as the bright orchestral turnout which the author originally furnished them with, even in an instrumental skill which refused the unnecessary just helps to put them in shade.” (Presumably, Potito Pedarra’s comments are more illuminating in their original Italian.  In any case, to put it bluntly, this music is bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, aside from a few fetching moments here and there, worthy of the attention only of Respighi specialists.

Most of the fetching moments appear in the 11-minute Waltz in C-sharp minor, composed in 1902. Here, a main melody expressing a late-hour, world-weary languor gives the piece a depth of character beyond the basic salon level. I hope that turns up soon on another CD, because I am sure many listeners would love to know it.

As for the rest of the music — Gosdemlan (1897) is a five-minute overture based on a Bolognese street chant that uses a Brahmsian fullness of texture to achieve a sort of tongue-in-cheek grandeur. Pretty uninteresting, I thought.

Six Little Pieces date from 1926 and are easy enough amateurs to play. The pieces are folkloristic in character, within the over-ingratiating salon style. One, called “Cantilena Scozzese,” has an almost Grainger-like directness, but never gets too far off the ground.

The second suite of Ancient Dances and Airs sounds really threadbare and pointless without its orchestral dress.  Concluding this rave review, I must add that the piano playing is not always well coordinated, and there are a couple of glitches in the sound production. But those program notes are a howl.