O felici orecchi miei! - Vecchie e celebri canzoni napoletane. Dominico Balzani
Nicola VALENTE (1880 – 1946)
1. Passione [3:35]
Salvatore CARDILLO (1874 – 1947)
2. Core ’ngrato [2:59]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 – 1948)
3. Me voglio fa’na casa [2:07]
Eduardo DI CAPUA (1865 – 1917)
4. ‘O sole mio [4:02]
Gaetano LAMA (1886 – 1950)
5. Reginella [3:53]
P.M. COSTA (1858 – 1933)
6. Era de maggio [2:51]
Ernesto TAGLIAFERRI (1889 – 1937)
7. Piscatore’e pusilleco [2:29]
Eduardo DI CAPUA
8. I’te vurria vasa [4:32]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801 – 1835)
9. Fenesta che lucive [3:18]
Eduardo DI CAPUA
10. Maria mari [4:23]
Enrico CANNIO (1874 – 1949)
11. ‘O surdato ‘nnammurato [3:28]
Guillaume COTTRAU (1797 – 1847)
12. Fenesta vascia [3:34]
Ernesto De CURTIS (1875 – 1937)
13. ’Torna a Surriento [3:50]
Salvatore GAMBARDELLA (1873 – 1913)
14. ’O marenariello [3:03]
Rodolfo FALVO (1874 – 1936)
15. Guapparia [2:40]
Libero BOVIO (1883 – 1942)
16. ’Tu ca nun chiagne [1:39]
Antonio DE CURTIS (1898 – 1967)
17. Malafemmena [3:56]
18. Dicitencello vuje [2:47]
Domenico Balzani (baritone)
Ludo Mariën (accordion), Macri Simone (piano)
no recording dates and venues
Italian texts with summaries in French, English, German and Dutch in the booklet
PHAEDRA 292023 [59:06]
A mixed programme of Neapolitan songs should still have its appeal and on this disc there are quite a number of songs that are unhackneyed. Core ‘ngrato, ‘O sole mio, Fenesta che lucive and ’Torna a Surriento have been recorded over and over again, but much of the rest were attractive finds that I will return to with pleasure. What makes the disc stand out from most other discs of this kind of repertoire is the way it is performed. Instead of a brilliant tenor we hear a baritone with Italianate rounded tone and instead of inflated and bombastic orchestral accompaniments we hear a piano alternating with an accordion.
It is true that the first two songs were slightly disappointing, the first sung with power and little of the light and shade, the second musically nuanced but still robust and prosaic. Things improve with the Donizetti song (tr. 3), where Signore Balzani lightens the tone and makes it a charmer with its ‘tra-la-la-lera’. The real revelation comes with O sole mio, heard in too many hammed-up versions. Here we are treated to a dreamy accordion introduction with finely judged rubatos and quite restrained singing. There is nothing of the Pavarotti exhibitionist approach – and very refreshing it is, filled with joy. On top of this there are no fortissimo high notes at the end. This is music-making for an intimate room with some friends gathered around tables, sipping a glass of wine.
Even more of a find is Gaetano Lama’s Reginella (Little Queen). It’s a sad song by a man whose love has left him. As long as they lived in poverty there was love, but now the woman has tasted riches and left her King to become Queen of another man. It is again sung softly and intimately with wonderful, sensitive phrasing.
And this is the hallmark of this recital throughout. There are few big gestures but lots of exquisite nuances, flexible tempos and engaging story-telling. Time and again we also admire the lovely accordion playing, in Fenesta che lucive the accompaniment is tastefully embellished. Balzani and his fellow musicians take this repertoire seriously, by which I mean that they show the inherent musical qualities and don’t treat the melodies as vehicles for showing off.
In Torna a Surriento Balzani really lets loose in a couple of powerful fortes but – contrary to the showy types – the song ends with a postlude by the accordion that finishes with a diminuendo. There’s excellent playing also by the pianist – but the accordion makes the songs more intimate and small-scale, which I think they should be. This is a recital that should be an excellent corrective to the many full-throated programmes that are or have been available. Carlo Bergonzi made a couple of discs – one of them with piano accompaniment – and the present one is in the same sincere and tasteful mould.
The recording is first class and though I would have preferred full-scale translations of the texts, the summaries are a good help to savour the content of these lovely songs.
Finely judged and quite restrained singing. Nothing of the Pavarotti exhibitionist – and very refreshing it is, filled with joy.