Luigi Mancinelli: Scene veneziane (Venetian scenes), suite; Cleopatra / La Vecchia


From the opening measures of this Naxos CD, you'll be thinking Respighi. The likeness may not last very long, but it's meaningful. The music is by Luigi Mancinelli (1848-1921) and includes the world premiere recording of his Scene Veneziane Suite (Venetian Scenes) (1889), and excerpts from the incidental music to Cleopatra (1877). Performances are by Francesco La Vecchia and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma who have been involved in some related and highly successful projects lately, most notably the half dozen or so Naxos CDs devoted to the music of Alfredo Casella.

Older than his compatriots Luigi Martucci, Alfredo Casella and Ottorino Respighi, Mancinelli pioneered the revitalization of Italian orchestral music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although the opening of the CD sounds very much like Respighi, Mancinelli wrote it when Respighi was ten years old! Composing music was not his primary occupation. Mancinelli began his musical career as a cellist and entered the conducting profession rather abruptly, standing in for conductor Emilio Usiglio, who had gotten himself totally plastered an hour before the curtain was to rise on a performance of Aida. Mancinelli was a hit, and a conducting career was born that would take him as far as Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera.

While there's nothing profound here, Mancinelli's music is tuneful, colorfully orchestrated and very enjoyable - albeit he does overwork his themes at times, most notably in the Scene veneziane. Still, this is fetching music that is highly successful in the charm department, and if you don't mind a little too much of a good thing occasionally, there's much to enjoy. With the kind support of Naxos, the sample I've provided is Ritorno in gondola from the Venetian Scenes. Give it a listen, and I'd wager you'll want to hear more.

Luigi Mancinelli - Scene Veneziane & Cleopatra Naxos CD 8573074

Though not of the same recording, the Overture to Cleopatra can be heard here: