Passé – Il Canto Romantico In Italia
Vincenzo FERRONI (1858- 1934) Passé [3:01]; La foglia (imitazione) [2:03]; Alfredo D’ASDIA (1871-1949) Ultima rosa [1:45]; Lontananza [1:58]; Giovanni SGAMBATI (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
[image]SHEVA SH050 [71:43] [image]
Comparative review by John Sheppard

The programme presented here is highly interesting. It presents songs by Italian composers not generally known for their vocal music. To be honest, a few of them were not previously known to me in any capacity, the exceptions being Giuseppe Martucci and Enrico Bossi.
Martucci, had an early international career as pianist and later took up conducting, where he became a champion of Richard Wagner’s music in Italy. He conducted the first Italian performance of Tristan und Isolde in Bologna in 1888. He also introduced English music to Italian audiences. As a composer he wrote two symphonies, two piano concertos and some other orchestral music, quite a bit of chamber music and lots of piano pieces. His vocal oeuvre includes a mass, an oratorio and a number of songs. Those included here show a composer who is not particularly memorable as a melodist but these songs are strong on expressivity. The piano part is finely chiselled out – not surprising considering his reputation as a pianist. The Tre Pezzi Op. 84 seem to show him in the best possible light. Pianto antico (tr. 11) is a kind of pasticcio and Nevicata (Snowfall) (tr. 12) is , to my ears at least, a masterpiece: dark and menacing.
Bossi, is primarily known as organist and composer of organ music. There is also a five-minute-long Cantate Domino for choir and organ, written for Westminster Abbey, which is well-known and often performed in Sweden. It can also be played as an organ solo. His songs are well worth a listen, several of them beautiful and with fine piano accompaniments. Madrigale (tr. 25) and Lungo il ruscello (tr. 26) are my particular favourites but also The Old Clock (tr. 18), a setting of Longfellow.
The other composers left little impression. Alfredo D’Asdia Lontananza (tr. 4) is worth mentioning, and Sinigaglia’s broadly romantic songs with sweeping melodies could be nice to hear as encores after a meatier song recital. Donini’s contributions are comparable to English parlour songs, agreeable but lightweight – and why not?
Christopher Howell’s playing is first-class throughout and his liner notes are superbly informative. All the texts with English translations are printed in the booklet. In other words, there would have been very little to complain about had the singing been on the same level as the presentation and the playing. But it isn’t. Elisabetta Paglia no doubt feels for the songs and there are several nice interpretative details and sensitive nuances but generally the singing is undistinguished with a lot of unsteady, strident tone, throaty delivery and faltering intonation. When evaluating the programme I tried to listen past the voice and the singing to imagine what the songs would have sounded like in a more idiomatic reading. Maybe she was caught on an off-day; quite possible since her CV reveals an impressive list of places where she has appeared and musicians with whom she has performed.
Good intentions but the finished results are rather dispiriting.
Göran Forsling
Good intentions but the finished results are rather dispiriting.