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Akiko Nakajima - Plaisir d’amour
Johann Paul Aegidius MARTINI (1741–1816)
1. Plaisir d’amour [3:34]
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660–1725)
2. Le Violette [2:23]
3. Sento nel core [4:11]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
4. Ridente la calma [3:24]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801–1835)
5. La ricordanza [4:57]
Album per canto di Auber-Cagnoni-Mercadante-Ricci-Thomas-Verdi a benefizio del poeta F. M. Piave
François AUBER (1782–1871)
6. L’esultanza* [2:26]
Antonio CAGNONI (1828–1896)
7. Pensiero d’amore* [3:09]
Saviero MERCADANTE (1795–1870)
8. L’Abbandonata [5:02]
Federico RICCI (1809–1877)
9. Lamento* [2:54]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811–1896)
10. Sola! (Canzone danese* [2:54]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
11. Stornello [1:54]
12. La prece dell’orfana (Romanza) [3:09]
13. La palomma (from 4 canzoni napolitane) [2:50]
Paolo TOSTI (1846–1916)
14. Aprile [2:59]
15. Tormento! … [3:16]
16. Ideale [2:57]
17. Chanson de l’adieu [2:20]
18. Goodbye [4:05]
Akiko Nakajima (soprano), Niels Muus (piano)
rec. Casa Paganini, Genova, Italy, March 2007
* denotes World Premiere Recording
Sung texts enclosed
DYNAMIC CDS556 [58:29]


Experience Classicsonline

The title of this disc might lead readers to dismiss it as ‘just another collection of popular classics’. Nothing could be more wrong. It is true that Padre Martini’s Plaisir d’amour has been over-exposed and performed in innumerable arrangements of variable quality. A couple of Tosti’s songs are frequently heard but when did you last hear one sung by a soprano? This has been tenor territory, at least since the days of Caruso, and too often served as vehicles for exhibitions in bravura. It is something of a purification bath to have them sung as intimate Lieder by a light lyrical voice.

I will comment more in detail on the whole programme in a moment; let me just say that Mozart’s lovely Ridente la calma appears now and then in recital and Verdi’s Stornello is probably his best known song – as opposed to the opera arias. But I wonder how many readers can claim to be familiar with the remaining songs. There are even four world premiere recordings here by one-time-greats, so even if the performances had been just so-so the disc would have been of interest. And there is certainly nothing mediocre about them. In fact Ms Nakajima had me captivated all through the programme. She has a soft and comfortable voice, lyrical and quite small it seems, which is confirmed by her biography. Her roles have been Handel and Mozart, the Italian bel canto – including Lucia – Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier and some operetta. Her dynamic scope isn’t very wide but within this scope she still finds a lot of nuance and expressiveness – in many ways an ideal voice for Lieder and Mélodies.

She employs a great deal of rubato in the opening Plaisir d’amour which, considering the period of its composition may be anachronistic – and so does the piano accompaniment, not least the postlude. But it is an agreeable performance that I will be pleased to play to guests as an alternative to Mireille Mattieu or Edith Piaf. The two Scarlatti arias are light and fluent and Ridente la calma is also light and charming without too much detail. There is elegance and softness in the Bellini song, composed in 1834, which opera enthusiasts will recognize as a preliminary study for Elvira’s Qui la voce from I Puritani. Good legato, beautiful tone and exemplary accompaniment. Just a few weeks ago I heard the song, which evidently was found not so long ago, with José Carreras and good as it was in his reading I can’t help feeling that it is better suited to a female voice.

The next six songs were published in 1869 at the initiative of Giuseppe Verdi. This was the year that Francesco Maria Piave, the author of the librettos for Aroldo, I due Foscari, Ernani, La forza del destino, Macbeth, Rigoletto, Simon Boccanegra and Stiffelio, suffered an apoplectic stroke and got into financial trouble. Verdi helped him with a generous donation but he also managed to get a number of then important opera composers to write songs for this album, the takings from which would also go to Piave. Not only Verdi but also the other three Italian composers had written operas to librettos by Piave: Mercadante set La schiava saracena, Ricci Crispino e la Comare and Cagnoni La Tombola. The last two mentioned are forgotten today but were highly regarded for their comic operas and some of their works were played until the end of the 19th century. The two French composers were close friends to Verdi.

Auber’s contribution is a lovely song, simple but affecting, Cagnoni’s is melodically attractive and very well sung and Mercadante’s is a splendid composition, expressive and with fine accompaniment. Thomas’s and Ricci’s songs are OK but more ordinary and Verdi’s Stornello is the masterpiece of the album.

Mercadante’s operas are rarely heard today but the composer is still more than a footnote in the history books and at least some arias can be heard occasionally on recital records. The two further songs by him confirm that he was something more than just a run-of-the-mill composer and La palomma, nervously rocking in ¾ time, is certainly worth hearing more than once.

The concluding group of Tosti songs are all out of his top drawer and as so often he manages to create something more than agreeable parlour songs. Aprile is especially lovely to hear with a female voice – far from the breast-beating of stentorian male heroes. Tormento!, as can be seen from the title, is a dramatic song and here she goes slightly beyond what is natural for her lyric voice and develop a vibrato that is noticeable but to particularly disturbing. Again she shows her care about nuances. Ideale may sound bloodless when mentally compared to  her many big-voiced predecessors but her lyrical approach certainly pays dividends. Then she rounds of the programme with two farewells, both sensitively and beautifully performed and seldom has Goodbye sounded so longingly.

The recording is excellent, the pianist is good and the booklet has all the sung texts but alas no translations. With constantly well considered readings and an interesting programme this disc should be of interest to even well-stocked lovers of songs.

Göran Forsling 


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