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Il Mio Canto
Saimir Pirgu (tenor)
Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Speranza Scappucci
rec. 2015, Orchestra Hall, Teatro dell'Opera, Florence, Italy
Sung texts provided with English translations
OPUS ARTE OACD9041D [62.51]

Lyric tenor Saimir Pirgu recorded his first solo album Angelo Casto e Bel over a decade ago with a repertoire of mainly Italian baroque, Mozart and Donizetti. For Il Mio Canto Pirgu turns to the romantic repertoire.

A name possible new to many, Pirgu, Albanian by birth and Italian by adoption, has been the recipient of a number of prestigious awards and has been acclaimed by no less than Plácido Domingo. The 34 year old has sung a number of roles at La Scala, the Paris Opera, the Royal Opera House, San Francisco and Los Angeles opera-houses, the New York Met, Zurich, Berlin and Bavarian state operas.

Any such recital inevitably invites comparison with the likes of Gobbi, Bergonzi, Pavarotti and Carreras which may seem unfair but their fame still sells recordings today. Pirgu is nowhere near that elevated league and neither is he close to the most famous contemporaries on the current scene namely Kaufmann, Villazón and Florez. Nevertheless Pirgu is still worthy of attention. Where does he rank today? Well, he approaches the group of lyric tenors headed by Ramón Vargas, Marcelo Álvarez, Vittorio Grigolo and Joseph Calleja, all fine singers of an Italianate quality and much loved by audiences.

With a bright voice that combines commitment, energy and lyric expression Pirgu excels with an especially impressive high register. From my experience most of the top houses would be delighted to engage a tenor of this ability for the right production. On the other hand his occasional unsteadiness and shortage of tone colour can be disappointing. Sometimes remarked upon is Pirgu’s vibrato which although conspicuous I don’t find invasive. Nevertheless there is a faint coarseness to his tone. From Cilea’s underrated verismo L’arlesiana the much adored aria È la solita storia del pastore (Federico’s Lament) sits ideally in Pirgu’s tessitura ensuring that the torment of the heart-broken character is deeply-felt. Another highlight is Rodolfo’s love song Che gelida manina from Puccini’s La Bohème. Here Pirgu is in serious character affording deep concentration although ideally he requires additional vocal colour. In Gounod’s cavatina Salut! Demeure chaste et pure from Faust the tenor demonstrates his comfort with the high tessitura; soaring easily to the high C. Tombe degli avi miei … Fra poco a me ricovero from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor is another aria ideal for displaying Pirgu’s ease in the top register.

His delivery in Roméo’s love song L’amour … Ah! lève-toi soleil! from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette feels slightly pinched at times yet the aria is captivatingly sung. Not entirely successful is the aria Di rigori armato il seno from Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Pirgu seems a tad uncomfortable with Richard Strauss’s orchestration although the aria is designed for an Italian tenor. In spite of passionate commitment and sung with tender expression additional tonal variation is needed in Rodolfo’s aria Oh! fede negar potessi agl’occhi miei! … Quando le sere al placido from Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Under Roman conductor Speranza Scappucci the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is in safe hands. Neat and colourful the disciplined support it provides is sensitive to Pirgu’s requirements. The sound engineers have provided a recording that is clear and satisfyingly balanced. Santiago Salaverri's booklet essay provides all the basic information. I am pleased to report that those so-important sung texts are provided together with English translations.

Marked by dramatic intensity this engaging solo collection from Saimir Pirgu is worthy of praise but the competition is fierce.

Michael Cookson

Previous review: Ralph Moore

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
O inferno! Amelia qui! … Sento avvampar nell’anima … Cielo pietoso, rendila (Simon Boccanegra) [5.27]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Che gelida manina (La Bohème) [4.57]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Salut! Demeure chaste et pure (Faust) [4.32]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Di rigori armato il seno (Der Rosenkavalier) [2.33]
Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)
È la solita storia del pastore (L’arlesiana) [4.27]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Lunge da lei … De’ miei bollenti spiriti … (La traviata) [3.43]
Oh mio rimorso! Oh infamia (La traviata) [3.07]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
L’amour … Ah! lève-toi soleil! (Roméo et Juliette) [3.50]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
La mia letizia infondere (I lombardi alla prima crociata) [2.13]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Tombe degli avi miei … Fra poco a me ricovero (Lucia di Lammermoor) [7.48]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Pourquoi me réveiller? (Werther) [2.47]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Ella mi fu rapita! … Parmi veder le lagrime (Rigoletto) [5.30]
O figli … Ah, la paterna mano (Macbeth) [3.44]
Oh! fede negar potessi agl’occhi miei! … Quando le sere al placido (Luisa Miller) [5.43]
La donna è mobile (Rigoletto) [2.23]



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