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Giovanni PACINI (1796-1867)
Pacini Rediscovered - extracts from nine of his operas composed between 1813 and 1848
Adelaide e Comincio (1817) - Overture
Annetta e Lucindo (1813) - Quartet, Fra l'orror di notte oscura
Eiddwen Harrhy, (sop); Paul Nilon, (ten); John Cashmore, Geoffrey Dolton (bar)
Cesare in Egitto (1821) - Terzetto, O bei lampo lusinghiero
Annick Massis (sop); Bruce Ford (ten); Kenneth Tarver
Temistocle (1823) - Cavatina, Tacete! ohimè, quei cantici
Jennifer Larmore (mezzo)
Alessandro nell’Indie (1824) - Terzetto, Che fai fellon'... Ciel! d'una misera
Majella Cullagh (sop); Enkelejda Shkosa (mezzo); William Matteuzzi (ten)
Il contestabile di Chester (1829) - Duetto, Ah sì ch'io t'amo... Là sotto il salice
Yvonne Kenny (sop); Susan McCullough
Carlo di Borgogna (1835) - Coro, Squillan già di vetta in vetta
Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
Maria regina d'Inghilterra (1843) - Fenimoore's aria, Eccomi presso alla terribil ora
Bruce Ford (ten)
Envoi: Allan Cameron (1848) - Cabaletta dell'aria finale, Ah! del core il voto ardente
Annick Massis (sop); Alan Opie (bar)
Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
Philharmonia Orchestra/David Parry
London Philharmonic Orchestra/David Parry
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Antonello Allemandi
No recording venues or dates given
OPERA RARA ORR 238 [75.59]



Italian composers in the primo ottocento, the term loosely used to describe the first half of the nineteenth century, had a pretty hard time. There had been a steep decline in the tradition of instrumental composition after Cimarosa (1749-1801) and Paisiello (1740-1816). Opera was a popular genre even in the dark days of the frequent wars and provided the only opportunity for composers to earn a living. Every city had at least one opera house, with the major centres having two or three, each one specialising in a particular oeuvre and often drawing its audience from a particular social class. This was no more evident than in Venice where the Teatro La Fenice provided opera seria, the San Benedetto opera buffa and the Teatro San Moise one act farse. New productions, at least two each season, were the order of the day and composers scrambled to get their works performed. The singer rather than the composer was the important person in a production and accordingly paid more. The composer had to write rapidly and then move on if he was to keep the wolf from the door. Once having presented his work, and been present in the orchestra pit for the first three performances, he had no other control over what happened to his music. Often singers would choose to interpolate another composer’s work to show off their vocal prowess. The most the originator could hope for was to re-use music from the composition in an amended version or in another work in a town where the original was not known. This was the milieu in which Pacini plied his trade, with one notable addition, the influence of Rossini. Rossini had announced his quality early on in his compositional life. The year of the premiere Pacini’s first opera, 1813, was when Rossini became pre-eminent in this competitive environment with the premieres of both Tancredi and L’Italiana in Algeri. Rossini’s position in Italian opera remained pre-eminent until his departure from the Italian opera scene to go to Paris via Vienna, ten years later. Keen to get their works staged, many Italian opera composers of the period, including Pacini, followed Rossinian compositional models. It was not until after the great man’s departure from Italy that the likes of Donizetti and Bellini moved towards a more romantic view in their operas.

Pacini’s longevity gave him a great advantage over his many compositional rivals. He took the opportunity after the failure in 1834 of Carlo di Borgogna to withdraw from composition for five years and rethink his ideas of dramatic theory and structure. His return to the theatre saw some of his finest works, the likes of Sapho (1840), La findanzante corsa (1841), Maria Regina d’Inghilterra (1843) and Medea (1857) are quoted in this context by Dr. Jeremy Commons in his brief booklet introduction. Pacini’s last opera, Berta, was staged a mere seven months before his death in 1867, the year of the premiere of Verdi’s Don Carlos in Paris. Between the first and last of Pacini’s operas compositional styles changed immeasurably. Although this CD does not extend across Pacini’s compositional life, the last work being composed in 1848, it must be heard in the context of the changes that took place during even that part of Pacini’s life.

In focusing much of their artistic endeavour on the recording of operas by Donizetti, and to a lesser extent Rossini, Opera Rara, and their guiding mentor the late Patric Schmid, have never forgotten other significant composers of the primo ottocento, particularly Pacini. Their catalogue includes recordings of his Maria regina d’Inghilterra (ORC 15) and Carlo di Borgogna (ORC 21) as well as extracts from other operas in the two series, Il Salotto and A Hundred Years of Italian Opera volumes two and three (ORR 227 and 230). The present compilation is derived from these various sources and is issued to coincide with the recording, and concert performance, of the composer’s Alessandro Nell’Indie at the London Coliseum. This composition of 1824 was the composer’s first for the San Carlo in Naples which had premiered so many of Rossini’s opera seria and was to be important to Donizetti’s later development. The trio from this opera Che fai felon, from an earlier recording, is featured on this selection (tr.5) and indicates a distinctly individual compositional footprint. The duet from Il Contestible di Chester (tr. 6) has some reminiscences of Bellinian cantilena, and the long scene and bravura tenor aria from Maria Regina d’Inghilterra (tr. 8), superbly taken by Bruce Ford, would not have disgraced one of Rossini’s Naples opera seria. That said, Pacini is shown on this disc to be a composer of both inspirational quality as well as individuality.

The new recording of Maria Regina d’Inghilterra will feature Opera Rara stalwarts such as Jennifer Larmore and Bruce Ford. I had some happy moments with this disc comparing the high soprano singing styles of three of the company’s stars, Majella Cullagh (tr.5), Yvonne Kenny from a little while back (tr.6) and Annick Massis (trs. 3 and 9). Such simple pleasure was an added delight to discovering more about Pacini’s music through listening to the nine operas featured.

This compilation is a perfect complement to earlier issues from Opera Rara that provided an excellent opportunity to hear extracts from several operas by composers of this period other than Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini. Details and reviews of similar compilations devoted to the compositions of Mercadante and Meyerbeer are available on MusicWeb. Like them this disc is thoroughly recommendable both in respect of performance and scholarship. There are brief notes on each track as well as a short introductory essay by Jeremy Commons.

Robert J Farr 


 



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