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Domenico CIMAROSA (1749-1801)
Overtures - Volume 1
Voldomiro (1787) [4:06]
La baronessa Stramba
(1786) [6:16]
Le stravaganze del conte
(1772) [3:27]
Il matrimonio segreto
(1792) (first recording of Vienna version) [6:00]
L’infedeltŕ fedele
(1779) [5:26]
Il ritorno di Don Calendrino
(1778) [9:11]
Il falegname
(1780) [5:22]
(1789) [4:21]
Il convito
(1782) [9:12]
La vergine del sole
(1788) [5:34]
Il credulo
(1786) [4:53]
L’impresario in angustie
(1786) [5:18]
Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia/Alessandro Amoretti
rec. Phoenix Studio, Hungary, 6-9 April 2000. DDD
Programme notes in English and German
NAXOS 8.570508 [69:06]
Experience Classicsonline

Domenico Cimarosa was a phenomenally successful composer and probably the most famous Italian composer of the second half of the eighteenth century – something else to annoy Salieri, no doubt. Between 1772 and his death he wrote 65 operas, many of which enjoyed tremendous acclaim during his lifetime. Haydn is known to have conducted performances of thirteen of them at Eszterháza – several of them more than once. Both Eugčne Delacroix and Stendhal compared Cimarosa’s operas very favourably with Mozart’s. Goethe was also an admirer and in 1797 - not 1791 as the booklet suggests - introduced L’impresario in angustie to the court theatre in Weimar. This was in his own specially-prepared German version with some numbers from Mozart’s Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario) spliced in.
After the success of his first commedia per musica, Le stravaganze del conte in 1772 Cimarosa’s fame spread quickly. He became closely associated with opera houses in Rome, Milan (La Scala), Naples and Venice. Between December 1787 and the summer of 1791 Cimarosa was maestro di cappella for Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg. In this he continued a distinguished line of Italian composers that had included Manfredini and Galuppi. Upon his return from Russia he spent two years as Kappellmeister for Leopold II in Vienna, during which time Cimarosa’s most famous and enduring opera Il matrimonio segreto was premiered in February 1792.
Among the reasons for Cimarosa’s success was his knack for writing witty and entertaining ensemble numbers in his operas. Liberally scattered among them are numerous duets, trios, quartets and larger ensemble pieces. His music is charming, melodically inventive but, to my ears not nearly in the same league as the composer from whom Delacroix and Stendhal found it hard to distinguish him.
Cimarosa’s overtures were written separately from and have no thematic links to the operas they were designed to open. Some of Cimarosa’s operas had several overtures written for them for different productions; two overtures that opened L’impresario in angustie are to be found on this disc. Many of the overtures on this CD are simple four- or five-minute curtain-raisers. I found some very attractive, such as the lively opening overture to Voldomiro -  apparently only performed once in Turin in 1787 - L’infedeltŕ fedele, Cleopatra and the relatively well-known Il matrimonio segreto, all of which have a lively and appealing Italianate style. Others are in the by then rather archaic three-section Sinfonia configuration,  such as Le stravaganze del conte, Il ritorno di Don Calendrino  and Il convito, which also served as an alternative overture for L’impresario in angustie.
Taken as a whole, this disc is enjoyable, although perhaps not all at one sitting. I’m not sure how well it would stand up to repeated listening as, despite Delacroix and Stendhal’s claims, Cimarosa was no Mozart (or Haydn) and the lack of true substance in these charming pieces soon becomes apparent. However, it is a worthwhile collection of music from a period when Mozart didn’t have it all his own way in the opera house.
This recording was originally issued on Marco Polo 8.225181 and dates from April 2000. The Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia plays crisply and keenly, with a real sense of style, ably directed by Alessandro Amoretti. The acoustic of the Phoenix Studio in Budapest has a warmth and depth that suggests a concert hall rather then a studio and beautifully complements the spirited performances.
Derek Warby

see also review by Göran Forsling


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