Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was an Italian composer
whose music was most recognised in German Opera Houses. He had
an Italian mother and a German father, so the influence of the
two countries was present in his upbringing. He spent much of
his life in Munich, and established himself musically there.
I gioielli della Madonna (Jewels
of the Madonna) is s serious work in the verismo style,
and is stylistically similar to other products of the time,
such as those by Leoncavallo, Mascagni and Puccini. The Suite,
heard here, has an exuberant opening, with rich orchestration
and rustic character. The Intermezzo is a soaring minor-key
melody, which is reminiscent of Cavalleria Rusticana and
gives the strings a particular opportunity to demonstrate their
expressive capabilities. The following Serenata is a
charming waltz, with a jaunty flute theme performed here with
flair over a rich counter-melody. This is a simple but highly
effective movement, which demonstrates an excellent understanding
of orchestration. The final movement of the suite is the thrilling
Danza Napolitana, which returns to a rustic style and
follows a sectional form.
Instinctively he favoured neo-classical
treatment of earlier styles in a modern context, and he wrote
a number of comic operas in this pattern. I quattro rusteghi
(School for Fathers) is one such opera, and the playing here
is poised and well paced.
The Suite-Concertino in F major
for bassoon and orchestra captures the attention from the opening
bars with the rich and sonorous tone of Karen Geoghegan’s bassoon
playing. The breath control in the opening Notturno is
particularly impressive, as is the evenness of tone. There are
some beautifully shaped phrases and subtle changes of tone colour
which help to bring the long lines to life. The Strimpellata
is an energetic dance, which gives Geoghegan opportunity to
demonstrate her technical skills and strikingly clear articulation.
The Canzone gives a further opportunity to focus the
attention on sound quality, while the Finale is perhaps more
musically straightforward but is equally well-performed. This
is impressive playing from one so young.
The remainder of the disc contains music
from more of Wolf-Ferrari’s comic operas, Il segreto di Susanna,
L’amore medico, Il Campiello and La dama boba.
The music is full of operatic charm, performed with expression
and drama by the BBC Philharmonic under Gianandrea Noseda. The
waltz movements are particularly enjoyable, having a wonderful
sense of poised charm. The richly romantic themes in the overture
from La dama boba are also particularly sumptuous and
enormously enjoyable. The sound quality of this recording is
consistently excellent, as we have come to expect from Chandos.
Geoghegan plays Bassoon Concertos
HUMMEL,WEBER, BERWALD , JACOBI, ELGAR,GERSHWIN Karen Geoghegan
(bassoon) Orchestra of Opera North/Benjamin Wallfisch CHANDOS
Geoghegan interviewed by Carla Rees