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Passť – Il Canto Romantico In Italia
Vincenzo FERRONI (1858- 1934) Passť [3:01]; La foglia (imitazione) [2:03]; Alfredo D’ASDIA (1871-1949) Ultima rosa [1:45]; Lontananza [1:58]; Giovanni SGAMBATTI (1841-1914) Visione [3:32]; Cor di fiamma [2:12]; Die Lerchen [1:57]; Giuseppe MARTUCCI (1856-1909) Sogni! [5:53]; Tre pezzi per canto e pianoforte Op 84 [8:16]; Leone SINIGAGLIA (1868-1944) Tre canti Op 37 [7:53]; Idino DONINI (1891-1959) Stornello in grazia nova ... [2:13]; Per l’onda molle [2:23]; Marco Enrico BOSSI (1861-1925) The old clock on the stairs {3:57]; Otto Canti Lirici Op 121 [24:44]
Elisabetta Paglia (mezzo); Christopher Howell (piano)
rec. 26 February 2011, Studio “L’Eremo”, Lessona, Italy
Texts and translations included
SHEVA SH050 [71:43]

Experience Classicsonline

This should be a most fascinating collection. Not all of Puccini’s or Tosti’s Italian contemporaries were primarily composers of opera or Neapolitan or salon songs. The various composers represented here are better known in the wider musical world for their instrumental music – insofar as they are known there at all. Martucci is the best known, due more than a little to the recordings by ASV and Naxos of his orchestral music including two Symphonies. These reveal a composer of some strength and imagination, in a style owing much to the German symphonic tradition. Sgambati was also known for his orchestral music although little has been recorded, and Bossi is still comparatively well known and recorded as a composer of organ music. I would be surprised if the remaining composers on the disc are even names to most music-lovers, so that Sheva deserve the highest commendation for the interest of this disc in providing some insight into what sounds like a potentially rewarding field for further exploration.

Having said that I regret that I cannot be more enthusiastic about the actual content of the present disc. Christopher Howell does all possible to help the listener, with extensive and interesting notes and full texts and translations. His own playing is exemplary throughout, with a real sense of direction and characterisation. Indeed as played here the piano parts in most of these songs are far from being mere accompaniments; they are of great fascination in themselves. Unfortunately they need to be, as the singing of Elisabetta Paglia as recorded here is monochrome, unsteady and lacking in a sense of musical line. I should stress “as recorded here”, as her biography in the booklet makes it clear that she has sung with many distinguished musicians and groups. It may well be that hers is one of those voices where the microphone exaggerates the negative qualities in her singing. This is by no means an uncommon occurrence – the late John Brecknock was a peerless singer of Rossini in the flesh but his recordings do not begin to do him justice. The recording here is close and dry which makes the effect even worse. Whatever the reason I found the sound of Ms Paglia’s singing as heard here unlovely and her interpretations uninteresting. It was only by concentrating on the piano parts that I was able to get any pleasure from the disc.

Even then I found most of the programme of limited interest, with only the Bossi and some of the Martucci songs to any degree memorable. On the basis of this disc it is understandable why the composers represented are known for their instrumental rather than their vocal music. It may be that more satisfactory performances might endear these songs to the listener, but I have to say that I rather doubt it.

John Sheppard

see notes on these composers by Christopher Howell





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