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Ferrara: Fantasia Tragica; Notte Di Tempesta / La Vecchia, Rome Symphony

Audio Samples

>Ferrara, Franco : Preludio, for orchestra
>Ferrara, Franco : Fantasia tragica, for orchestra
>Ferrara, Franco : Notte di tempesta, for orchestra
>Ferrara, Franco : Burlesca, for orchestra

Album Summary

>Ferrara, Franco : Preludio, for orchestra
>Ferrara, Franco : Fantasia tragica, for orchestra
>Ferrara, Franco : Notte di tempesta, for orchestra
>Ferrara, Franco : Burlesca, for orchestra
Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Franco Ferrara's gifts were prodigious. Born in Palermo he was a fine pianist, an even better violinist, playing under Toscanini, and later a conductor whose public performances were curtailed by illness, but whose private classes were famous. His Fantasia tragic is a 'symphonic homage' to Shostakovich, the youthful Burlesca attests to his high spirited and superbly realized string writing and shares something of a filmic heritage with Notte di tempesta, a late-Romantic score of fulsome accomplishment.

"From every aspect this is the finest disc we have had from the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma with their conductor, Francesco La Vecchia. The playing is powerful and recorded with great clarity and presence. Most strongly recommended." -David's Review Corner

Pizzicato
The interpretations are excellent, the sound is perfect, this CD so I can heartily endorse that sounds like tone poems.

MusicWeb International
The chuckling and vivacious Burlesca is the most successful piece here. It recalls another aspect of Bax - his swooning strings and brass-writing in the frothy light overtures such as Overture to a Picaresque Comedy. It's also a reminder of the overtures of Coates and Haydn Wood.

American Record Guide
All are tonal, neoromantic, attractive, and cinematic.

Classical Lost and Found
Made at two different locations in Rome, the recordings are well matched, presenting wide soundstages in suitably resonant venues. All the details of this Technicolor music come through with crystal clarity, but at the cost of an orchestral timbre slanted towards the high end.

Classical Candor
The program concludes with Ferrara's most playful music of all, the youthful Burlesca from 1932. With this one, both Ferrara and La Vecchia are having fun. It provides a joyful end to an album that began on a far more serious note. The music has all the lightness of a popular song and might be describing a sunny stroll around the streets, fountains, and parks of Rome.

Recorded at the OSR Studios and the Auditorium Conciliazione, Rome, in 2008, the sound is round, soft, and ultrasmooth, with an adequate but not distinguished breadth, depth, and dynamic range.

Allmusic.com
... In fact, it might leave the listener with a clear answer of what sort of music one would get if heavy Verdi and Italian drama were crossed with the style of Northern European and Russian composers. The tonally fascinating Notte di tempesta features great colors in the orchestra: high string tremolos, the flute paired with the bass clarinet, and rolling timpani. The menacing passages that move up and down the scale in the low strings are like waves, played with excellent precision by the Orchestra Sinfonica. One is swept away by the waves, the roar, the swells, the thunder. A tightly knit, chorale-like passage is an interesting contrast to the stormy music. The lushness of the strings recalls string orchestra music such as that of Vaughan Williams. The ending is rich, with the strings paired with the warm brass. The last piece on the album, Burlesca, is warm and inviting, very accessible like a film score. One might conjure a Harry Potter film or 1950s films when hearing the music. The beginning is whimsical, with string pizzicato, flute leaps and jumps, and a tinkling triangle. Engaging dialogues between the instruments are complemented by sweeping strings. There is a strong contrast between the warmer passages and a dark, menacing theme, proof that Ferrara knew how to keep dramatic tension in the music. Ferrara should become a household name, especially when played beautifully by the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma.

ClassicsToday.com
Francesco La Vecchia and his orchestra will be familiar to readers from their recent, fine recordings of music by Casella. It's great to see them branching out into the unexplored byways of modern Italian music, a terribly neglected field. The playing, as on those earlier releases, is a touch rough in spots, but excitingly so - never less than good, and in the end quite satisfying. The short playing time (46 minutes) is a bit of a shame. Surely there was room, if not time or money, for more music to be included, but the engineering is suitably vivid. A real curiosity, this, and eminently collectible.



Reviews

An unexpected pleasure
Apart from Gustav Mahler, who was equally famous for both composing and conducting, internationally known music maestros who also composed are relatively few; examples are Wilhelm Furtwaengler, Igor Markevitch, Evgeni Svetlanov, and Bruno Walter. In his lifetime, Franco Ferrara, one of Italy's most renowned 20th-century conductors, tutored over 600 students, including many who subsequently became famous conductors. It is, therefore, a surprise and a pleasure to discover that he was also a composer. According to the Naxos program notes, his vast, largely unexplored catalog includes instrumental, vocal, and orchestral works; a full-length, as-yet unstaged opera, "La sagra del fuoco" (The Festival of Fire); numerous short pieces written for television and adverts; and, curiously, a few songs written under the pseudonym of Franz Falco.
Based on the contents of this new CD from Naxos, what he composed is certainly worth hearing, in my opinion. Once again, Naxos is to be congratulated on taking a leap of faith by recording these virtually works. The solemn "Preludio" is followed by the dramatic, late-Romantic-style "Fantasia tragica," which (according to the notes) draws upon Shostakovich; the persistent drum beats drive home forcibly the concept of tragedy. "Notte di tempesta" (Stormy Night) is also highly dramatic and (to my mind) projects a brooding atmosphere. "Burlesca," one of Ferrara’s earlier works, is lighter in mood, and makes a splendid contrast to the other three works on this CD.
The program notes give many details about Ferrara, but little information about the four works heard on this CD. Despite that, those who love emotional music composed in the late-Romantic period (with some touches of post-Romanticism, although Ferrara never composed in an atonal style) should certainly add this CD to their collection.
The playing and recording quality are exemplary.
Ted Wilks
Submitted on 08/13/11 by Ted Wilks 
Comfort music from Franco Ferrara
Ferrara certainly isn't the first 20th Century conductor who wrote music. There's George Szell, Jose Serebrier, Wilhelm Furtwangler, and (of course) Gustav Mahler. Ferrar isn't quite on the level of Mahler, but his works are more tightly constructed than Furtwangler's as these four world premier recordings prove.

Francesco La Vecchia and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma provide an excellent reading of this material, giving the listener a great introduction to these unknown works.

This is accessible and appealing music, indeed! While sitting clearly in the 20th Century, Ferrara's compositions stay safely with the bounds of tonality. To my ears, the compositions sounded somewhat like mid-career Shostakovitch, without the Russian accent.

That's not to say this a a bad recording -- far from it! Ferrara has some original music ideas, and his intimate knowledge of how an orchestra works allows him to come up with some very effective and moving tonal colors. In a way, it's sort of like comfort food. Ferrara doesn't challenge, but rather reassures with his music.

I found the "Fantasia tragica" particularly appealing. Like Ravel's Bolero, the work gradually builds in volume as more instruments enter the mix. But there's no driving percussion here -- just a long, beautifully-crafted melody that moves inexorably upward, winding its way through the orchestra.

This would be a great disc to give to someone who's ready to move beyond the basic repertoire. There's still plenty of touchstones with the familiar, but the spark of originality Ferrara brings to his music makes the exploration worthwhile.
Submitted on 08/14/11 by RGraves321 
Don’t judge a CD by its cover
First impressions convey important insights but sometimes they just fall short. The cover of this “Tragic Fantasy” seems to show an angry hand grasping the red and black vale of clouds in a threatening reach. Hmmm---is this modern music angry, grasping, stormy, dissonant?

The content of Ferrara’s Preludio, Fantasia tragica, Notte de tempesta, and Burlesca contradicts the false initial image and envelops the listener in lush melody to imagine a mind-lifting voyage into light and energy. The arm reaches out in blessing, from the 16th century Bishop and reformer Carlo Borromeo, from the enormous statue in his memory and honor in Aroma, Italy. These beautiful compositions are performed by the only private orchestra in Italy, The Symphonic Orchestra of Rome, under the direction of Francesco La Vecchia. The pieces were written at different times, but make a most desirable combination and collection.

• The Preludio is soft and dreamy, inviting the listener to relax and enjoy this musical fantasy.
• Fantasia tragica begins so softly that almost nothing is heard for several seconds. A chromatic theme is introduced, hides, and reappears throughout the piece. A drum ostinato prevails for a while, and the music fades away again at the conclusion.
• Notte di Tempesta begins quietly much like its predecessor, perhaps envisioned by a single black cloud on the horizon. By the end of this selection, it has earned its designation as the Night of the Storm—imagination is reinforced.
• The Burlesca flirts with the imagination to conjure up no horrors, but imps, pixies, fairies peeking around the edges of flowers—or perhaps flutes are just chasing the cornets on stage. Or maybe from a movie, the Pink Panther or Doris Day flit along with their on-screen plots. The imagination has free rein to do limitless exploration in flights of fantasy.

The life of Franco Ferrara provides an education in itself. After a prodigious childhood and productive but handicapped early career, he worked with movie producers to provide enduring and successful film scores. We have been hearing this composer more than a little, and not recognizing how much we enjoy his works. These selections, as well as others by Franco Ferrara, deserve a prominent place in the CD collection of the discerning listener.

Submitted on 08/30/11 by howsweetthesound 
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Works Details

>Ferrara, Franco : Preludio, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Francesco Vecchia
  • Ensemble: Rome Symphony
  • Running Time: 8 min. sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Ferrara, Franco : Fantasia tragica, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Francesco Vecchia
  • Ensemble: Rome Symphony
  • Notes: Auditorium Conciliazione, Rome (02/17/2008-02/18/2008)
  • Running Time: 13 min. 55 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Ferrara, Franco : Notte di tempesta, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Francesco Vecchia
  • Ensemble: Rome Symphony
  • Notes: Auditorium Conciliazione, Rome (02/17/2008-02/18/2008)
  • Running Time: 14 min. 47 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Ferrara, Franco : Burlesca, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Francesco Vecchia
  • Ensemble: Rome Symphony
  • Running Time: 9 min. 55 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern