Gerard Hoffnung CDs
|Domenico CIMAROSA (1749-1801)
Overtures - Volume 2
L'Armida immaginaria (1777) [5:06]
Oreste (1783) [6:40]
L'Italiana a Londra (1778) [7:38]
Artaserse (1784) [9:06]
Alessandro nell' Indie (1780) [9:42]
La donna sempre al suo peggior s'appiglia (1785) [5:08]
La Circe (1783) [9:34]
Il fanatico per gli antichi Romani (1777) [7:35]
Giannina e Bernadone (1781) [6:55]
Toronto Chamber Orchestra/Kevin
rec. St Anne's Church, Toronto, Canada, 10-12 July 2006
NAXOS 8.570279 [67:27]
As a student in the 1960s, I encountered the music of Domenico
Cimarosa just twice, once on record and once in a concert. The
was that, back then, if I’d wanted more (which I did), concert
programmes and record shops weren’t exactly replete with
follow-up material. As the years rolled by, and in spite
of the increasing availability of this sort of repertoire,
I just never got round to investigating further. Indolence,
it seems, can make fools of us all.
I still cherish my old LP recording (Evelyn Rothwell/Pro
Arte O/Barbirolli) of Arthur Benjamin’s arrangement of four
of the keyboard sonatas into a scrumptious Oboe Concerto.
Even after more than forty years, recalling the live encounter
still fills me with a warm glow and raises a smile to crack
my normally dour countenance. It took place in Newcastle
City Hall, where the redoubtable Northern Sinfonia Orchestra
was conducted by a certain Mr. Geraint Evans, fully costumed
and bewigged for the part of Il Maestro di Cappella.
aren’t many concert performances that reduce their audiences
to tears of mirth, but this was one of them. For instance,
every time the double-bassist tried to play, the maestro would
advance admonishingly, shushing him with, “Questro ‘strumento
non fra per me!” – which translates roughly as, “This instrument
won’t do for me!” Eventually, the poor chap went on strike.
He stuck his bow through the strings into the sound-hole
so that it protruded at a defiant and – I presume unintentionally – somewhat
phallic angle. Then he parked his elbow on his knee, his
chin on his hand, and sulked. The contrite maestro then
had to exercise all his inconsiderable powers of diplomacy
to retrieve the situation. Of course, the gag was predominantly
visual, but even so, it wouldn’t have been half as hilarious
without Cimarosa’s subtly satirical music.
two encounters form a fortuitous pair. Given the melodic
felicity of the former and the comic-dramatic flair of the
latter, I am not surprised to learn – at long last! – that
during his career Cimarosa churned out 65 operas, mostly buffo.
That’s an awful lot – it works out at an average of two a
year. Not unexpectedly, all the overtures on this CD are
in the “Italian style” of fast-slow-fast. However,
apparently without relation to the dates of composition,
some of them are single movements whilst others retain the
older “sinfonia” format of three separate movements. In either
flavour, they come across less as operatic overtures and,
I’m happy to say, more as finely crafted little “symphonies” in
the manner of, say, William Boyce.
interesting that might be, but what I found really intriguing
was the compositional style. There was no mistaking that
Cimarosa, in his bustling fast sections, had gratefully inherited
Vivaldi’s famous bent for cyclic rhythmic figuration. Equally,
there was no mistaking the gratitude owed to Cimarosa by
the composer who inherited his operatic crown, Gioachino
Rossini. O.K., this may not add up to cutting-edge musicology,
but it does make for a satisfying little slice of musical
evolution in action.
collection is the second volume of a series. Not having even
heard the first volume, I risked committing the critic’s
cardinal sin by looking up its MWI reviews. I found two.
One, which includes a commendable potted background, was
Forsling; the other was by my much-missed friend, the
late Adrian Smith.
In several significant respects they differ diametrically.
Try these for size. Göran: “[They] make a good evening’s
listen.” Adrian: “. . . listening to them one after another is a wearisome experience.” Göran: “. . . a golden opportunity to
make the acquaintance of some of the most spirited music
of the late 18th. century.” Adrian: “.
. . a disc of very limited appeal.”
is “right”? Ah, I’m not going to fall for that one! I’m sure
you don’t need me to tell you this, but I’ll say it anyway,
to be sure we understand one another: reviews are not factual
statements which may be right or wrong, but critical opinions
born of the reviewer’s observations, experience, knowledge,
personal taste, temper and – last but not least – prejudices.
Hence, we can’t say which of Adrian and Göran’s reviews is
right, but merely try to reconcile their disparate views.
I feel obliged to do, not least because, it seems to me,
what they said about volume 1 applies equally to this volume
2. Actually, it’s an easy task, because it all boils down
to the “sheep principle” – that is, to most folk all sheep
look alike, but the more you know about sheep, the less alike
they all seem. Göran clearly knows his “sheep”, whilst Adrian
admitted he was a “middle-of-the-road listener”.
myself found each of these overtures thoroughly delightful,
but I must admit that hearing them parading one after the
other was indeed akin to “counting sheep”. However, I expect
this impression to fade with further listening, in which
I will be much encouraged by the sheer pleasure they so evidently
offer. Of course, the acid test will be whether I get to
the point where I desperately desire to add further volumes
of the series to my collection!
you, what I won’t be doing again is hearing them in
one gulp, any more than I would gorge myself on Vivaldi’s
violin concertos. Unless you know your “sheep”, it’s best
to treat them like vitamin tablets or fish-oil capsules – take
one a day and you’ll feel so much better for it. With apologies
to Göran, I suspect that I may not be able to resist making
occasional use of this CD as “musical wallpaper”.
Toronto CO under Kevin Mallon play with oodles of flair and
refinement. The TCO is something of a hybrid, playing on
modern instruments but otherwise adopting authentic performance
practice – and thus proving, to me at least, that the “authentic
sound” is if anything more due to how you play the
instruments than to what instruments you use. If the sound
of a “period band” – with its zero-rated vibrato and tendency
of held notes to “bulge” a bit – is anathema to you, then
steer well clear. Everyone else can join me in applauding
all the alert articulation, keen textures, lithe rhythms
and immaculate phrasing that are part and parcel of the best
recording is almost uniformly excellent. I harbour some slight
doubt about the tympani, which occasionally sound a mite
muffled and boomy, even though the attack suggests that the
sticks used are quite hard. However, I suspect this is a
quirk of the otherwise exemplary acoustics. Possibly the
tymps. were too close to some concavity, because around all
the other instruments there is a wonderful openness, a feeling
of fresh, clear air. In this recording the acoustic, far
from being something “in the background”, feels to be radiating from the
instruments, lending to the sound an integrity you generally
only hear in a (good) concert hall.
booklet comprises an informative essay by Allan Badley and
Nick Rossi, a note about the TCO and a full list of
players, plus a page about the conductor. These are in English,
along with a German translation of the essay only.
I presume, with my tongue in my cheek, that this is for the
benefit of the majority of Germans, whose English runs to
reading notes about performers but who can’t cope with articles
let’s sum up. Admirably recorded in an ambience to die for,
these are spirited performances of music that’s a cut above
the needs of its original purpose, and will fail to entertain
and edify only those who over-indulge their appetites. Right,
time for another nibble …
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