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Joyce & Tony - Live at the Wigmore Hall
Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano)
Antonio Pappano (piano)
rec. live 6, 8 September 2014 Wigmore Hall, London
Song texts and English translation provided for CD 1 only
ERATO 2564 610789 [2 CDs: 41:49 + 47.32]

This Erato recording was produced from the pair of recitals which Joyce DiDonato and Sir Antonio Pappano gave at Wigmore Hall, London to open the 2014/15 season. DiDonato holds a special affection for the Wigmore Hall which was the venue of her first art song competition back in 1997.

Described in the press as the dream-team, the partnership of DiDonato and Pappano has chosen a programme in two distinct parts that contrasts the Italian language with American English. The first CD comprises of songs in Italian from Rossini, Santoliquido and De Curtis featuring Haydn’s Italian language dramatic scena or cantata Arianna a Naxos, a work that takes up almost half the disc. Works from the Great American Songbook comprise the second CD with 14 songs from mainly Broadway composers ranging from Stephen Foster to Irving Berlin.

Haydn’s setting of Arianna a Naxos concerns the desertion of Arianna, daughter of the King of Crete, by Theseus on the Greek island of Naxos. Although this is one of Haydn’s most passionate works it’s one that I rarely see programmed. Certainly a highly challenging choice to commence a recital DiDonato excels in Haydn’s scena displaying her creamy, expressive tone and developing a splendid drama that draws the listener in. Quite enchanting are the Rossini songs followed by the inflated sentimentality of four songs by Neapolitan composer Francesco Santoliquido, seemingly quite a strange choice out of the broad repertoire available. To close the first half, from De Curtis a favourite composer of mine, I savour Non ti scordar di me!

Clearly relishing the occasion the popular choices of the American Songbook in the second half must have been highly entertaining for those in the Wigmore but undoubtedly much of the magic is lost on this recording. DiDonato can’t compete with the specialists of Broadway Theatre but she sings the Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers songs with enthusiasm and great assurance even if missing out on seeing the actual performance is a real drawback. My particular favourite DiDonato performances of the show tunes are the pair from Kern’s Show Boat and Rodgers’ My Funny Valentine from Babes in Arms. Pappano makes a splendid partner and I can allow him to indulge himself with some mannered performing especially in the Broadway songs.

Consummate artists with big personalities DiDonato and Pappano perform wonderfully but this is one of those recitals that you really had to attend. I understand that there was some witty banter with the audience but not surprisingly none has been left in only some applause. The booklet contains song texts and English translations but for CD 1 only. Presumably as the songs on CD 2 are all in English it is thought the texts are not needed. I notice that one of the timings in the annotation is incorrect. There’s an interesting and detailed essay by Paul Griffiths. On this live recording the sound engineers demonstrate that they have full measure of the Wigmore Hall acoustic, providing good clarity and excellent balance.

Michael Cookson 

Full track details
CD 1 [41:49]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
1. Arianna a Naxos [19:47]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
2. BeltÓ crudele [4:44]
3. La Danza [3:10]
Francesco SANTOLIQUIDO (1883-1971)
I canti della Sera:
4. L’assiolo canta [2:20]
5. Alba di luna sul bosco [1:05]
6. Tristezza crepuscular [2:39]
7. L’incontro [4:05]
Ernesto DE CURTIS (1875-1937)
8. Non ti scordar di me! [3:53]

CD 2 [52:40]
Stephen FOSTER (1826-1864)
1. Beautiful Dreamer [3:57]
Jerome KERN (1885-1945)
2. The Siren’s Song, from musical Leave it to Jane [3:24]
3. Go Little Boat, from musical Oh, my dear [4:04]
Havelock NELSON (1917-1996)
4. Lovely Jimmie, in Four Irish songs, anonymous Irish song [3:29]
Five Views of Love
Celius DOUGHERTY (1902-1986)
5. Love in the Dictionary [2:46]
Jerome KERN
6. Life upon the wicked stage, from musical Show boat [2:30]
Jerome MOROSS (1913-1983)
7. Lazy afternoon, from musical The golden apple [2:45]
William BOLCOM (b. 1938)
8. Amor, from Cabaret songs [3.05
Heitor VIILA-LOBOS(1887-1959)
9. Food for thought, from musical Magdalena [3:19]
Jerome KERN
10. Can't help lovin' that man, from musical Show boat [3:19]
Richard RODGERS (1902-1979)
11. My funny valentine, from musical Babes in Arms [2:54]
Jerome KERN
12. All the things you are, from musical Very Warm for May [3:46]
Irving BERLIN (1888-1989)
13. I Love a Piano [3:20]
Harold ARLEN (1888-1989)
Somewhere over the Rainbow, from movie The Wizard of Oz [5:54]
Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano), Antonio Pappano (piano)
Note: timings include applause



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