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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Music of Antonio Salieri

Well, my previous post on Salieri has seemed to stir up a decent amount of interest, so I figured I would write some more on the actual music of Salieri. More and more recordings of Salieri's music are finding there way onto the market. Of course, Salieri's main output was opera, but he did venture into other venues as well.

One of my favorite recordings is that of the Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Pietro Spada on the ASV Digital label. The recording features Salieri's Two Piano Concertos as well as his Variazioni Sulla "Follia di Spagna" or Variation on the Leaves of Spain. Also included on the recording are the world premieres of his Les Horaces and Semiramide Overtures.

Spada edited many of the works and the cadenza for the Piano Concerto in C is his own. I must say that I find the Piano Concertos to be very well written. They are written in a nostalgic style but at the same time are forward-looking pointing to the supreme piano concertos by Mozart.

However, the Variazioni Sulla "Follia di Spagna" is where Salieri really shines. Written in 1815, near the onset of Salieri's senility, it was the composer's last work. The theme is one of the most popular in all of Classical Music. It has been used by D'Anglebert, Corelli, Daquin, Liszt, and Rachmaninov. Salieri shows that he is indeed no dolt and, rather, a master of orchestration. The variations run the gamut from quiet and simplistic to complex and powerful. The overtures are also a real delight. I highly recommend checking out this recording.

While only a few of Salieri's many operas have been recorded so far, I feel this will soon change. The talented mezzo-soprano, Cecilia Bartoli, released a fabulous album in 2003 entitled The Salieri Album. She believes the tribute will help to "accord him the status he deserves." The arias on the album range from comical to highly dramatic. It shows that Salieri was comfortable with writing both as is Bartoli singing both styles. Adam Fischer conducts the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment on the album. It truly is a gem to not be missed.


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