RENDINE: Symphony No. 1 (2006). Symphony No. 2 "Andorrana" (2007).
Orquestra Nacional Clássica d'Andorra (ONCA)/Marzio Conti.
Naxos 8.572039 (B) (DDD) TT: 61:11.

Empty calories. I yield to no one in my admiration for Naxos's breadth in exploring obscure repertoire. Often the label finds treasures, but even so one must admit it has also uncovered a lot of mediocrity. This is, I'm afraid, one of those times.

The liner notes go on about how the symphony is in trouble and how so few composers know how to compose a true symphony and similar nonsense. I can name off the top of my head five practicing symphonists well worth hearing and all far more interesting than Sergio Rendine. I suspect this is a new way of rehashing the tired tonal-vs.-atonal debate. Of course, if I actually named a symphonist, the (anonymous) writer can always rejoin with "But he or she is not a true symphonist," simply because the writer seems to consider Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements outside the genre, although damned if I know why. Certainly, no one has bothered to tell me.

There's nothing wrong with these symphonies, but there's nothing heart-stopping about them either. A certain brightness of orchestration reminded me a bit of Rodrigo, but without Rodrigo's poetry and bite and sense of particularity. These symphonies could have been written anywhere and at any time after, say, 1900. Curiously, the best movements (like the slow second of the First Symphony or the opening of the Second) are also the most conservative, like Hamilton Harty in the early part of the twentieth century. To mention these works in the same breath as Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Hindemith, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and even Henze does Rendine no favors.

Conti and his Andorrans do well enough, faced with a minimal challenge. The sound is Naxos's usual -- no worse than most, but not really significantly better -- firmly within acceptable present standards.

S.G.S. (October 2008)