Wolf-Ferrari spun luxuriant lyricism throughout his Italo-German
musical career and seldom more so than in his operas. The overtures
and entr’actes must, by and large, stand in for the works from
which they have been extracted, since opportunities to hear such
as I gioielli della Madonna and Il segreto di Susanna
do not come along with exactly the punctuality of Puccini.
This is a pity, and a loss, but record companies can’t be blamed
for the timidity of opera houses and launching studio operatic
recordings is now, in any case, very much a thing of the past.
And if the operas aren’t performed then live performances can’t
be recorded either. It’s a cleft stick all round.
So the next best
thing is to present choice and characteristic extracts, as here.
They’re performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under Gianandrea Noseda and were taped in
September 2008. The sound quality is as generous as ever from
the Chandos team though a touch too much so at times, and it
can diffuse things just a little. A very minor point however.
programme opens in what one would have called, in days gone
by, capital fashion. This is the Festa popolare from
as I gioielli della Madonna, a vital, terpsichorean
Tarantella of irresistible brio. The ensuing Intermezzo from
the operatic suite is a Mascagni-light effusion, warmly detailed,
and that in turn is followed by a sprightly Serenata.
The suite is rounded off by a Danza napolitana, rich
in verismo excitement. This is certainly the right place to
start – it embodies a charming vitality, and alerts one – practised
admirer of the composer or neophyte – just how luscious his
melodies are. The Prelude and Intermezzo from I quattro
rusteghi evince refined rococo charm – a little like harmonically
up dated Grétry perhaps with a wash of Watteau elegance.
Noseda pushes the
Overture from Il segreto di Susanna quite hard, though
its bustling Mozartian character emerges unscathed. In the Intermezzo
we have the advantage of clarinettist John Bradbury’s typically
eloquent legato. The corresponding movements from L’amore
medico, a much later work dating from 1939, are orchestrally
heavier though the Intermezzo is a charmer and cellist Peter
Dixon takes some solo honours. The Intermezzo and Ritornello
from Il campiello – a work written in 1936 – wouldn’t
have been so out of scale in Cav or Pag, where Wolf-Ferrari
manges subtly to vest the music with little verismo piquancies
and gestures. It’s the kind of thing that makes one yearn for
a Schipa or a Gigli.
The operatic extracts
are interrupted mid-programme by the lovely Suite-Concertino
in F major for bassoon and orchestra. Karen
Geoghegan plays this deliciously, with real control and command
and tonal variety. My reservation concerns the first movement,
which I find simply too slow. I greatly prefer the more athletic
tempo canvassed by Luc Loubry and conductor Hans Rotman in their
performance on Talent SACD DOM 2929 90,
which gives a more tight construction on things here.
Larner’s notes are however first class and seal an enjoyable
and engaging voyage through some genial effusions.
see also Review
by Carla Rees
Geoghegan plays Bassoon Concertos
Geoghegan interviewed by Carla Rees