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Maria - Songs of Maria Malibran (1808-1836)
Giovanni PACINI (1796-1867)

Irene, o L'assedio di Messina (1834): Se Un Mio Desir ... Cedi Al Duol [3:45]; Ira Del Ciel [2:22]
Giuseppe PERSIANI (c1799-1805-1869)

Ines De Castro(1833): Cari Giorni [4:09]
Felix MENDELSSOHN(1809-1847)

Infelice op. 94 (Scena and Aria) (London Version) (1843) [12:14]
Manuel GARCIA (1775-1832)

El Poeta Calculista (1805): Yo Que Soy Contrabandista (Poeta) [2:23]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

La Sonnambula (1831): Ah! Non Credea Mirarti [4:18]; Ah! Non Giunge [3:24]
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL(1778-1837)

Air a la Tirolienne avec Variations op. 118 (c.1829) [7:24]
Manuel GARCIA (1775-1832)

La Figlia Dell’aria (1826): E non lo Vedo … Son Regina [7:02]
Maria Malibran (1808-1836)

Rataplan [2:26]
Giovanni PACINI (1796-1867)

Dopo Tante E Tante Pene (1834) [3:14]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

I Puritani (Malibran Version) (1835): O Rendetemi la Speme ... Qui La Voce [5:20]; Vien, Diletto [2:48]
Jacques Fromental HALÉVY (1799-1862)

Clari (1828): Come Dolce a me Favelli [4:37]
Lauro ROSSI (1810-1885)
Amelia Ovvero Otto Anni di Costanza [1834]: Scorrete, O Lagrime [2:33]
Maria MALIBRAN for Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore: Prendi, per me sei Libero [4:15]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

Norma (1831): Casta Diva [6:48]
La Sonnambula (1831): Ah! non credea mirarti [3:34]
Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo)
Celso Albelo (ten) (Elvino, Riccardo)
Luca Pisaroni, bass-bar (Giorgio)
Maria Goldschmidt (flute)
Robert Pickup (clarinet)
Una Prelle (harp)
Maxim Vengerov (violin)
Ada Pesch (violin)
Daniel Pezzotti (cello)
Claudio Mermoud (guitar)
International Chamber Soloists/Jurg Hammerli
Orchestra La Scintilla/Adam Fischer
rec. Kirchgemeinde, Zurich-Oberstrasse, August-October 2006
Notes in English, French and German
DECCA 475 9078 [CD: 79:46 + DVD]

Maria Malibran is a name well known to those who follow 19th century operatic music. She was the Callas of her day who, sadly, was robbed of a career when only 27 years old. Yet in her short life she was known the world over and became a legend. To have become widely known in Europe in a decade was remarkable for any singer. She impressed wherever she went, had an amazing range to her voice and socialised with the leading composers of her day. Rossini, Bellini and Balfe are perhaps the most noted for their association with her.

This new album from Cecilia Bartoli has been put together as a tribute to this legendary singer and is unique in providing first time recordings of arias by lesser-known composers that include Malibran’s father, Manuel Garcia. Halévy, Pacini and Persiani are others that make an interesting appearance on an album of 17 tracks, issued with an accompanying DVD. The DVD contains four recording sessions and an interesting interview about Malibran where Bartoli visits a museum, sadly not named, to handle Malibran memorabilia. There’s also a Decca discography and publicity photos.

Where possible, Malibran variants of the arias are used and some of these cover the extraordinarily-wide Malibran register of nearly three octaves. Some of the Bellini pieces, are scenas that include additional singers and chorus; others carry virtuoso instrumental accompaniment. Consequently, there is a good diversity of choice here. Diva Bartoli is on brilliant form in this recording and Adam Fischer provides loving and sensitive handling of the orchestra, which plays superbly.

Of the tracks, the Cari giorni (Ines de Castro) is utterly charming with elegant, breezy lyrical phrases and gently rippling harp accompaniment. A tender and sensuous scene from Infelice with energetic opening recitative, is emotive with its melancholic violin obbligato and changing tempi. Two Sonnambula pieces radiate spontaneity and lightness of touch. Bartoli reveals her command of a wide register that can probably match Malibran. The chorus sing with enthusiasm and give purposeful support. A catchy Rataplan, with composer unknown from a forgotten French vaudeville source, makes good use of those exaggerated rolling Rs that Bartoli unnecessarily displays in the recording studio. In the aria, this device suitably emphasises the accompanying side-drum.

The short Donizetti tribute to Malibran from L’Elisir d’Amore, Scorrete, o lagrime (Amelia ovvero otto anni) is one of my favourites on the disc. Here soloist and chorus are perfectly wedded with exacting balance. The Prendi, per me sei libero (L'elisir d'amore) that follows shows off Bartoli at her best with generous fireworks of energy. Bartoli is clearly at home with this opera and enjoys singing these arias.

Perhaps, the least attractive track is Garcia’s Yo que soy contrabandista which, although it effectively carries the Spanish idiom, is of a different genre from the rest of the disc.

This large format album is lavishly presented and contains much of interest to help us unravel Malibran’s background. Yet in the historical section it falls short in covering the milestones of her life. Readers will be unaware that for a number of years, she travelled and promoted concerts in Italy with the British baritone and composer, Michael William Balfe. They worked together playing opposite each other at the Paris Opera. Malibran promised to appear in a Balfe opera if he would write one for her: this he did after returning to England. This was to be his opera, The Maid of Artois (1836) and was the last opera in which Malibran sang before her untimely death six months after creating the role of Isoline. This fact might have been mentioned since the album fails fully to explain how Malibran came to be in England at the time of her death. The album contains two good double-page spreads of contemporary posters of the works in which Malibran appeared, including one of the unexplained The Maid of Artois. Despite much available space, we have no portrait of Malibran: most odd. The only one that appears is shown fleetingly in the DVD section that deals with Malibran the person. The album is visually egocentric and is filled with many pictures of Bartoli instead. There is little to interest the reader in the myriad of small snapshot photos of recording sessions and places Bartoli visited that are used as a graphic ‘leg’ running down each page as part of the design. The DVD menu page uses difficult-to-read captions that are too small for the resolution of the TV screen.

Raymond Walker


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