GLUCK MELODIE from ORFEO ed EURIDICE "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" arr. Giovanni Sgambati
The Gluck Melodie, Dance of the Blessed Spirits from "Orfeo ed Euridice", is one of the most gorgeous melodies in all of opera. The transcription by Giovanni Sgambati is excellent and allows, as you will hear, for a wide range of interpretation. We have many different performances to compare, and many are excellent.
Mark Hambourg's playing of this transcription is one of my favorites. His interpretation is subtly romantic while maintaining the delicacy and spirit of the original.
The performances by Rachmaninov, exquisitely played as always, are just a tad more Romantic than some think appropriate for the music. But the arrangement allows for it and his interpretation is carefully crafted and really works.
And there is a gorgeous performance by Felicja Blumental.
Surprisingly, Hofmann's interpretation doesn't really work for me. It seems almost as though he were not quite certain of the approach he wished to take. The melody does not flow, the playing has a halting aspect to it which contradicts the essence of the music. It is hard to fault Hofmann, but this one leaves me a might disappointed, as do the performances by Levitsky and Petri.
Antonietta Rudge, a very impressive Brazilian Pianist, just takes her Romantic approach to this lovely piece over the edge. This music was written in the 1760s and her interpretation has lost all connection to the spirit and style of the music.
However, her countrywoman, Guiomar Novaes, arguably one of the finest pianists of her century, plays it like a dream. [I have included a live recording by Novaes that is not nearly as wonderful.]
Nelson Freire, another of the great Brazilian pianists, takes a more orchestral approach to his music, which was, after all, originally written for orchestra. The fabric of his playing is lush, but the melody sings as it should and the performance is quite pleasing to me.
Earl Wild plays the Gluck Melodie more slowly than some of the other pianists represented here, but once you accept his tempo, there are many appealing aspects to his playing. He takes a more contrapuntal approach and the orchestral timbres are lovely.
Kissin's interpretation of the Gluck Melodie, the slowest of the group, is unsuccessful. Unlike Wild, who stresses the linear elements of the music thus maintaining the movement, Kissin's playing is hampered by vertical stresses on almost every beat resulting in an almost plodding performance, as does that by Joel Hastings.
The remaining pianists are relatively unknown, but very fine. We have several young Italian pianists, Giuseppe Andaloro, a student of Sergio Fiorentino, Vincenzo Maltempo, and Pier Francesco Forlenza whose performance is really quite lovely. And a surprise, an amateur pianist, who is included here because his performance of the Gluck Melodie most closely reflects the Classical style of the original. [I have added a subsequent performance by this pianist in which he has succumbed to the sentimental. Pity.]
MARK HAMBOURG (1879-1960) Russian-British pianist recorded in 1929
SERGEI RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Russian pianist
recording made on Bosendorfer 290SE Reproducing Piano from a piano roll