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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Liriche da Camera - Italian Song
Deità silvane:

I fauni
Musica in horto
Egle
Acqua
Crepusculo
Da cinque canti all’antica:

L’udir talvolta nominare
Ballata
Ma come potrei
Bella porta di Rubini
Individual songs

Ultima ebrezza
Pioggia
Lagrime
Tanto bella
Notte
Razzolan, sopra a l’aia le galline
Luce
Soupir
Contrasto
Invito all danza
Storia breve
Scherzo
Notturno

Axel Everaert (tenor) and Pascal del Marmol (piano)
(Recorded at Théâtre La Colonne à Miramas (France) 21-23 April 1997)
PAVANE ADW 7375 [60:24]

Available for purchase on-line at a special price or you can download the entire CD or selected tracks. Full booklet notes available. Price includes VAT.

How encouraging to note an increasing interest in Respighi’s beautifully crafted and melodic songs. This 1997 recording rivals the 1996 Channel Classics album that included many of the same songs by another tenor, Leonardo de Lisi with pianist Reinild Mees.

The Pavane collection comprises 22 songs beginning and ending with two student-years (1896-97) songs: L’ultima ebrezza ("Last rapture") and Notturno, their style generally modelled on Tosti. Everaert has a finely tuned sensitivity for the lines of Respighi’s songs – his silken legato closely observes every sensuous twist and turn. He generally allows the songs to unfold more slowly than Leonardo de Lisi whose more oaken and smoky voice, and greater urgency, lends itself better to the more passionate utterances of songs like Ma come potrei (‘How could I ever endure...’) from 1906, which is one of Respighi’s Cinq canti all’antica, of which only four are included on the Pavane CD, Canzone di Re Enzo being unaccountably omitted. There are some interesting contrasts in interpretation between the two tenors. In Invito alla Danza (‘Invitation to the dance’) composed in 1906, for instance, de Lisi and Mees are charmingly persuasive (and they point up the allusions to gavotte and waltz rhythms more clearly) whereas Everaert is too nice and would hardly sweep the lady off her feet. But both tenors are tenderly romantic in Respighi’s Contrasto (‘Contrast’) which opens with the words, "The moon weeps with slow tears…" This song dates again from 1906, and its rising and falling lines have a haunting and timeless beauty.

Respighi’s mature Deità silvane (‘Gods of the Woods’) cycle, composed in 1917, recalls the fascination of gardens at twilight and shows the influence of Debussy and Ravel (it also echoes Fountains of Rome). Again Everaert’s lighter, more honeyed tones suit these fragile songs rather more than the darker tone and grain of de Lisi. On balance, however, I have to admit a preference for a female voice for these delicate, atmospheric songs. (I admire Renato Scotto’s recording on Vox 7201).

This Pavane collection includes one or two less familiar songs. I was unaware of the Tuscan rispetto Razzolan sopra a l’aja le galline. As Everaert points out in his notes, "it is a little masterpiece of its kind." It’s about Gigi, a young man, who stares at a young girl fetching water from a well. She deliberately lingers but he dares not say anything. Disappointed and angry, she snaps at him, "If God gave us eyes to see, He also gave us a mouth to speak with!" Evereart cleverly conveys this waspish reaction as the song’s "sting in the tail" when the tempo abruptly slackens after it has been conveying the breathlessness of Gigi’s passionate but impotent admiration. The piano ostinatos cleverly echo his hollow ardour and the drawing of the water from the well.

Respighi’s piano writing always matches the beauty of his vocal lines; it is also supremely evocative (consider, for instance, Pioggia, with its images of falling rain so felicitously pictured in the piano part). Further, the piano frequently points up the meaning (and sometimes hidden meanings?) of the words. Both pianists offer delicate, lyrical, accompaniments.

I have to say that the main irritation about this Pavane album is that it does not include the texts of these songs. The thin booklet just carries notes, in three languages, about Respighi’s place in the scheme of Italian song, and portraits of the artists. But Respighi’s songs and their nuances are not well known enough yet to dispense with their texts, even though Axel Evereart’s articulate notes describe their overall content admirably.

A compilation of beautiful songs sensitively performed and another valuable addition to the growing and widening Respighi discography.

Ian Lace

(This text is based on a review formerly written by the author for Fanfare magazine).

 


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