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Oreste Riva and Friends
Oreste RIVA (1860-1936)
Epinicion, for soprano, chorus and ensemble [8:17]
Intermezzo: Primavera e Primosole, for piano trio [3:29]
La Doppia Beffa, for piano trio [4:30]
Intima Voce, for soprano and piano trio [4:18]
Rievocando (Pensiero Elegiaco), for piano trio [8:04]
Aria di Echo (from: Narciso) [9:27]
Il Bar Roma, for piano trio [4:34]
Ruggero MANNA (1808-1864)
Divertimento e Variazioni, for cello and piano [16:36]

Andante Cantabile [5:14]
Emi Aikawa (soprano)
Daniela Sangalli (violin)
Fausto Solci (cello)
Eleonora Carapella (piano)
Lino Megni (violin) (Intermezzo, Rievocando)
Eddy De Rossi (harp) (Epinicion)
ad hoc chorus
ad hoc wind ensemble
rec. Centro Culturale AgorÓ, Castelverde, Italy, 24 March and 17 April 2012. DDD

The title may suggest a self-regarding jazz album, but Italian composer Oreste Riva is in fact, to quote the accompanying booklet notes, "a worthy, middle-ranking provincial musician" of his time. He does have an almost unique claim to fame, however: at the 1920 Olympic Games at Antwerp Riva won a silver medal. Not for running or boxing, as it happens, but for a composition - the first track Epinicion, according to the notes, but other sources say a 'Triumphal March' (quite possibly the same work) - at a time when events were still held, in the original Greek spirit, for the arts. Josef Suk also won a silver, incidentally, at the 1932 Games for a symphonic march: Towards a New Life.
It is presumably in the Olympic spirit of amateurism that Sheva assembled the chorus and brass for Epinicion: that is about the standard of singing and playing heard here. The chorus tenors and basses do not appear to belong to any group as such - certainly none is named in the track-listing. At any rate, with plenty of dubious intonation and ensemble in voices and brass, the listener is better off moving quickly on.
The rest of the CD is actually quite an attractive, if unadventurous, package. Ruggero Manna's Divertimento e Variazioni is an appealing, unexceptional duo in mid-19th century idiom, the composer clearly influenced by what was going on around him on the grand opera stage. Lino Pizzamiglio's Andante Cantabile is a similarly ingratiating salon piece of some charm. Riva's works are a little more sophisticated than those of his 'friends', offering a richer kind of lyricism - Intima Voce is especially pretty, whilst Rievocando oozes a warm nostalgia. Il Bar Roma, as the title suggests, is more jauntily cosmopolitan, recalling, deliberately or otherwise, the 'Schrammelmusik' popular in Austria and elsewhere at the time.
All the instrumental pieces by Riva heard here are for piano trio. Unfortunately the notes are not clear on whether these are the original scorings, or whether one or more have been adapted by another hand. Echo's Aria from Riva's opera Narciso (Narcissus), is performed here by Japanese-born soprano Emi Aikawa with what is presumably the composer's own piano accompaniment. On a previous recording for Sheva (SH035: review review), Aikawa was unfortunately required to sing in English, a language with which she clearly had very little familiarity. She is far better in Italian, the language of the three vocal works on this disc, where the listener is at leisure to appreciate the qualities of her resonant voice and technique. Epinicion aside, there are solid performances elsewhere from all concerned in what does, in fact, feel more like a primarily instrumental rather than vocal programme.
Audio quality overall is fairly good, despite Sheva's typical slightly-recessed sound. The booklet notes are informative and well translated, apart from the occasional misuse of register, as in "the protagonist in this recording". No information is given about Manna or Pizzamiglio.
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