Allegro io son – Bel canto arias
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Allegro io son (Rita) [4.03]
Ange si pur (La favourite) [5.00]
Com’è gentil (Don Pasquale) [4.05]
Cercherò lontana terra (Don Pasquale) [9.42]
Seul sur la terre (Dom Sébastien) [5.09]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801–1835)
A te, o cara (I puritani) [6.56]
Son salvo (I puritani) [8.16]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Quanto è bella (L’elisir d’amore) [2.46]
Una furtive lagrima (L’elisir d’amore) [4.59]
Pour me rapprocher de Marie (La fille du régiment) [4.05]
Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête (La fille du régiment) [7.11]
Lawrence Brownlee (tenor)
Viktorija Miskunaite (soprano), Liudas Mikalauskas (bass), Andrius Apsega (baritone)
Kaunas State Choir
Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra/Constantine Orbelian
rec. April, 2016, Kaunas Philharmonic, Kaunas, Lithuania
DELOS DE3515 [62:15]

Lawrence Brownlee has, alongside Juan Diego Flórez , a claim to being the best tenor exponent of the art of bel canto since the young Pavarotti in his heyday. This recital, very recently recorded and issued with surprising speed by Delos, confirms that status. Not only does he possess a voice of great beauty, agility and elegance, but he deploys it with great taste, discreetly ornamenting the da capo sections of arias without ever resorting to undue prolongation or grandstanding. His tenor is light, neat and very slightly nasal with a trill and easy top notes to spare, sailing effortlessly up to a top C sharp without any sense of strain.

The programme here takes the form of two arias from Bellini’s “I puritani” sandwiched between nine of Donizetti’s best compositions for tenor. The album opens with the most charming and high-spirited of all which gives the recital its title. It is sung most winningly with a smile in the voice and terrific top notes. Then comes the elegant French version of Spirto gentil from the original La favorite, demonstrating that Brownlee’s French is as idiomatic as his Italian, followed by two favourite arias from Don Pasquale. The orchestral introduction to Cercherò lontana terra reveals that the Kaunas City Symphony does not perhaps provide the most stylish or refined accompaniment; the trumpet is somewhat bumpy and recorded too closely, lacking the necessary plaintive and haunting quality that the music demands, but Orbelian’s conducting is excellent throughout. The libretto for that same track is oddly denuded of the recitative before the aria proper, but otherwise the booklet provides full texts with English translations – a very welcome bonus in these days of downloads.

A highlight is the famous quartet from I puritani in which Brownlee is accompanied by three fine Lithuanian singers, in particular the big, vibrant soprano of Viktorija Miskunaite. The singing here and throughout is of the highest order, so that it matters little that apart from the opening number no real rarities are included; these are simply both composers' best arias.

It is faintly inconvenient that the back cover of the CD does not list the tracks in order or give any timings, but that information is inside the booklet.

Ralph Moore

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