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Jonathan Woolf
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AVAILABILITY La Bottega Discantica

Ermanno WOLF-FERRARI (1876-1948)
Canzoniere on Tuscan Folk Poetry: Forty-Four rispetti, stornelli ed altri canti Op.17 (1936)  [56:12]
Gemma Bertagnolli (soprano)
Sandro Naglia (tenor)
Fulvio Bettini (baritone)
Antonio Ballista (piano)
rec. SMC di Campajola, Ivrea, December 1997

It’s not often that the complete Canzoniere are presented. You might know the classic recording by Schwarzkopf of songs from Part II but the whole cycle of forty-four, some entrusted to soprano and others to tenor and baritone, is a much rarer commodity. That makes this particular disc, recorded back in 1997, of value.
One way to circumvent the problems of a trio of vocalists is to extract, say, the soprano songs alone. That was a course taken by Maria de Francesca-Cavazza and Horst Göbel on Koch Schwann CD 314004. There the duo included songs from the Italian Song Book and thus ensured a balanced Wolf-Ferrari collection. The other approach, to record the complete Rispetti, necessarily courts the problem of the songs’ relative simplicity of utterance and their extreme compression. Forty-four songs taking fifty-six minutes tells its own story, however artfully sung they may be.
Since the vast majority of songs are lyrical but light it’s difficult for performers to present them in any way other than of folkloric intimacy. Outbursts are rare; the tone remains equable and malleably intimate.
Soprano Gemma Bertagnolli brings lyric generosity to bear in her selection though one finds that she’s taxed by some of the more pressing demands of Wolf-Ferrari’s writing. A song such as Giovanottino il bello andar che hai brings its own brand of thorns when the soprano forces and Bertagnolli’s tone tends to bleach white under pressure. Sandro Naglia has a nice, bright and youthful tenor. He brings out the Monteverdian cadences of a song such as La luna s’e ventura a lamentare with style – and note too the adept pianism of ever-present Antonio Ballista. It’s true that Wolf-Ferrari can stray close to Hahn in somewhat loosely decadent mood – but he’s better in more robustly neo-baroque fashion in something like Vedo la casa e non vedo il bel viso which, to one’s untutored ear, sounds perilously close to the kind of thing Tito Schipa might have sung.
The simple and unaffected nature of the se settings is as pronounced in Part II. . There are some jaunty quasi-hymnal moments in Giovanottino che passi per via. One should not overlook the contribution of baritone Fulvio Bettini who brings a robust and manly appeal to La casa del mio amor or indeed to Ballista’s control of rolled chords or the more crepuscular moments in ‘N del mezzo al mare. It’s fitting that the envoi is provided by Gemma Bertagnolli in the final Canti per soprano. Here she finds the requisite wit and in the final song, a gorgeous Preghiera, the artless beauty of a timeless aria.
The gatefold format allows for an attractive booklet. The texts are in Italian only. The performances may sometimes be rather small in scale but there’s an attractive uniformity to them and they do present the “44” in usefully consolidated form. Play one set at a time though.
Jonathan Woolf






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