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Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846 – 1916)
The Song of a Life - Volume 1
Romina Casucci, Maura Menghini, Valentina Mastrangelo (sopranos), Monica Bacelli (mezzo-soprano), Nunzio Fazzini, Mark Milhofer, David Sotgiu (tenors), Denver Martin-Smith (baritone)
Marco Scolastra, Roberto Rupo, Antonio Ballista, Isabella Crisante (piano)
rec. 2014/15, Teatro Clitunno, Trevi, Italy
Sung texts available online
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95201 [5 CDs: 346:10]

In 2016 it was 100 years since Francesco Paolo Tosti passed away, at the age of seventy. He was born in Ortona on the Adriatic coast of Abruzzo on 9 April 1846 and died in Rome on 2 December 1916. During his lifetime he lived in Naples, London, Milan and Rome and played a leading role in the musical life of those cities. He studied in Naples and became known as a singer of Neapolitan songs. Princess Margherita of Savoy heard him in concert and appointed him her singing teacher. When he moved to London in the mid-1870s he was appointed singing master to the Royal Family and was later knighted. Many of his songs have been performed by the greatest singers, including Melba, Tetrazzini, Caruso and Scotti, and most people even today know several of his songs, but it may come as a surprise to learn that he composed nearly 400, many of which have never been recorded.

The present 5-CD box is the first instalment in a project that eventually will encompass all his published songs. The mastermind behind the project was Francesco Sanvitale, emeritus director of the Istituto Nazionale Tostiano of Ortona, who sadly passed away in April 2015, but then the contents of the first two discs of this box were already in the can. In connection with the centenary of Tosti’s death two critical biographies have been published and Ricordi are publishing his complete songs in 14 volumes, there have been conferences, seminars and exhibitions and also series of 20 concerts, which were the basis for the recordings. The songs are presented chronologically, which offers an opportunity to follow his development as composer. This first box contains 114 songs, which is less than one third of his total oeuvre. We can expect at least another two boxes in the near future.

Tosti was a late starter as composer. The earliest songs here are from 1873 when he was already 27, and the majority of his songs were composed after he left Italy for London. The majority of the texts are in Italian, but there are also quite a few settings of French and English poets. Among the poets are several well-known names: Felice Romani, who wrote several librettos for Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti, Victor Hugo, A.C. Swinburne, Alfred de Musset, Gabriele d’Annunzio (who was a personal friend), Alfred Tennyson and Théophile Gauthier.

Playing the discs in the intended order it took some time before I found songs that I knew. Not until well past the middle of CD 3, did I meet two old friends, Aprile and Ideale, both composed in 1882. On CD 4 I found Vorrei morire! and Non t’amo più from 1884, meagre dividend one may think if one must find songs one knows. But among the remaining 110 there were many beautiful melodies, and let me just mention a few that I noted for future listening.

On CD 1 Saprò morire! (tr. 8) got a star, and the lively and charming canzonetta La rinnovazione (dell’abbonamento al Fanfulla) (tr. 12) even two stars. The melancholy Victor Hugo setting O ma charmante went to my heart (tr. 14) but the winner was Non mi guardare (tr. 17).

On CD 2 there is a set of fifteen duets Canti popolari abruzzesi (tr. 11 – 25), simple but beautiful, and my favourites are the rhythmically vital Tu nel tuo letto a far de’ sogni d’oro (tr. 17) and the sweet O mamma, mamma, stringimi al tuo cuore (tr. 22) but all the duets are little gems and the voices blend beautifully and the problems I had with the singers’ vibratos in the individual songs were suddenly gone.

On CD 3 a Preghiera (tr. 3) was touching and Come to my heart in ¾-time was charming. Aprile (tr. 14) and Ideale (tr. 15) of course stand out as compositions, but even though the singing is acceptable one is spoilt by all the great singers who have recorded them through the years. Povera mamma (tr. 21) is also a fine song.

CD 4 opens with En Hamac!, a French-sounding waltz to a text by d’Annunzio, and is followed by A sera!. The song is fine but the singing is not much to write home about. The same goes for Memorie d’amor! (tr. 10) but the melody is memorable. There are several other songs that are worth returning to, best of all perhaps T’amo! (tr. 18) a charming romanza in olden style.

On CD 5 we get the best singing in the whole box from mezzo-soprano Monica Bacelli, whose vibrant but beautiful voice caresses the melodies lovingly. Try Rosa (tr. 4) and Vorrei (tr. 5) – two songs that should belong to the standard repertoire. Bacelli’s tenor partner Mark Milhofer – they open the disc with a duet – sings with great passion and Yesterday (tr. 7) is another song to return to when off reviewing duty. The final song, We watch and wait (tr. 12) is also one that wets the appetite for the next instalment – now that we are in the mid-1880s and Tosti is at the height of his powers.

The singing is, as I have already hinted at, not quite on the highest level of excellence. Most of the voices are afflicted by various degrees of vibratos, which reduces the possibility to savour the melodies uninhibitedly. But there is obvious enthusiasm in their performances and – that is a great asset – all the singers are careful over nuances. Tosti’s songs have, through the years, been bawled out of recognition by leather-lunged tenors, and it is a blessing to hear so many beautiful pianissimos and diminuendos in this repertoire. Also it is a relief to hear so many of the songs sung by female voices.

The accompaniments are discreet and the recording is well-balanced and natural-sounding. At Brilliant’s super-budget price this should be a tempting proposition for admirers of Tosti’s songs.

Göran Forsling


Contents
CS: Catalogue Sanvitale

CD 1 [71:36]
1. L’Augurio (CS1) [2:28]
Ai bagni di Lucca (1874, CS7)
2. 1. Povero fiore!... [2:20]
3. 2. Tutto per me sei tu! ... [2:08]
4. 3. Sognai! ... [3:30]
5. 4. Ha da venir! ... [1:50]
6. 5. Vuol piovere! ... [2:26]
7. 6. Altro è parlar di morte, altro è morire ... [1:34]
8. 7. Saprò morire!... [2:46]
9. Non m’ama più (1874, CS8) [3:02]
10. Ti rapirei! (1873, CS9) [3:49]
11. Oh! Quanto io t’amerei! ... (1875, CS10)[3:12]
12. La rinnovazione (dell’abbonamento al Fanfulla) (1875, CS11) [3:55]
13. Signorina! ... (1875, CS12) [1:08]
14. O ma charmante! (1876, CS13) [6:08]
15. M’amasti mai? ... (1876, CS14) [2:43]
16. Ne me le dites pas! (1876, CS15) [3:29]
17. Non mi guardare! ... (1876, CS16) [5:01]
18. Serenata d’un angelo (1876, CS17) [2:29]
19. T’amo ancora! (1877, CS18) [3:21]
20. Lontan dagli occhi (1877, CS19) [3:18]
21. Oblio! (1877, CS20) [3:06]
22. Plaintes d’Amour (1877, CS21) [3:38]
23. Chi tardi arriva, male alloggia! (1877, CS22) [2:24]
24. Ride bene chi ride l’ultimo! (1877, CS23) [1:38]
Romina Casucci (soprano), Nunzio Fazzini (tenor), Marco Scolastra (piano)
Rec 22-24 July 2014

CD 2 [79:52]
1. Amore! (1878, CS24) [4:03]
Prime melodie (1878, CS25)
2. 1. Tenebre e luce [2:28]
3. 2. Sorridimi [2:48]
4. 3. Al mar! [1:38]
5. 4. Il salice [3:39]
6. 5. Son matto? [2:22]

7. Ricordatim di me! (1878, CS26) [3:49]
8. Dis-moi donc (1878, CS27) [2:41]
9. T’affretta! (CS28) [2:11]
10. For Ever and Ever (1897, CS29) [2:39]
Canti popolari abruzzesi (1879, CS30)
11. 1. Dal petto il cor m’hai colto [1:10]
12. 2. Mamma, mamma, lasciami andare [2:05]
13. 3. L’amor mio parti soldato [3:00]
14. 4. Che mai t’ho fatt’amor? [1:52]
15. 5. Tu mi vuoi tanto bene [1:19]
16. 6. La rosa senza spine non può stare [0:50]
17, 7. Tu nel tuo letto a far de’ sogni d’oro [1:35]
18. 8. Crudele Irene tu m’hai lasciato [1:38]
19. 9. Perché vuoi tu fidar la barca al mare [1:32]
20. 10. Mi dicon tutti quanti montagnola [1:49]
21. 11. Se dirti una parola [1:41]
22. 12. O mamma, mamma, stringimi al tuo cuore [1:58]
23. 13. Fanciullo appena ti parlai d’amore [1:22]
24. 14. Dammi un ricciolo dei capelli [1:02]
25. 15. Perché chinati gli occhi[1:45]
Pagine d’album (1879, CS31)
26. 1. Spes, ultima dea [1:54]
27. 2. Nell’aria della sera [1:48]
28. 3. Donna, vorrei morir [1:20]
29. 4. Quando cadran le foglie [1:56]
30. 5. Quando tu sarai vecchia [3:44]
31. Les papillons (1879, CS32) [2:44]
32. Vieille chanson (1879, CS33) [2:30]
33. Il pescatore di coralli (1879, CS34) [4:10]
34. Vous et moi! (1879, CS35) [2:17]
35. Dopo! (1877, CS36) [4:13]
Romina Casucci (soprano), Nunzio Fazzini (tenor), Roberto Rupo (piano)
Rec 29-31 July 2014

CD 3 [64:36]
1. Adieux à Suzon (1880, CS37) [1:58]
2. Lungi (1880, CS38) [2:41]
3. Preghiera (alla mente confuse) (1880, CS39) [4:32]
4. Penso! (1880, CS39B) [2:22]
5. Visione! (1880, CS40) [4:27]
6. Sull’alba (1880, CS41) [3:32]
7. Come to my Heart! (1880, CS41B) [3:45]
8. E’ morto Pulcinella (1881) [CS42) [4:20]
9. Nonna, …sorridi? (1881, CS43) [4:40]
10. Ave Maria (1881, CS44) [3:27]
11. Senza di te! (1881, CS45) [2:44]
12. Buon Capo d’Anno (1882, CS45B) [3:18]
13. Vuol note o banconote (1882, CS45C) [0:28]
14. Aprile (1882, CS46) [3:22]
15. Ideale (1882, CS47) [3:15]
16. Patti chiari (1882, CS48) [2:42]
Plenilunio (1882, CS49)
17. I. Nel plenilunio d’agosto dormono [2:52]
18. II. Vorrei la bianca mano diafana [1:26]
19. III. Guardarti sempre. Rapita l’anima [1:39]
20. IV. All’aria libera, dolce è sognar [1:40]
21. Povera mamma! (1882, CS50) [5:13]
Maura Menghini (soprano), David Sotgiu (tenor), Marco Scolastra (piano)
Rec 4 – 6 July 2014

CD 4 [78:26]
1. En Hamac! (1882, CS51) [5:31]
2. A sera! (1883, CS52) [3:34]
3. Ask Me No More (1883, CS53) [1:18]
La Fille d’O-Taïti (1883, CS54)
4. 1. O dis-moi, tu veux fuir? [2:28]
5. 2. Te Souvient-il du jour? [2:18]
6. 3. Tu rempliras mes jours [2:09]
7. 4. Helas! Tu veux partir [1:17]
8. 5. Loin de mes vieux parents [2:38]
9. 6. Quand le matin dora les voiles fugitives [1:23]
10. Memorie d’amor (1883, CS55) [3:10]
11. Notte Bianca (1884, CS56) [5:09]
12. Vorrei morire! (CS57) [4:55]
13. Arcano! (1884, CS58) [4:18]
14. Ange d’amour (1884, CS59) [4:15]
15. La Dernière Feuille (1884, CS60) [2:32]
16. Ninon (1884;CS61) [4:40]
17. Non t’amo più (1884, CS62) [5:01]
18. T’amo! (1884, CS63) [4:06]
19. At Vespers (1885, CS64) [5:49]
20. That Day! (1882, CS65) [3:52]
21. Let It Be Soon (1882, CS66) [3:44]
22. Good-Bye! (1880, CS68) [4:04]
Valentina Mastrangelo (soprano), Denver Martin-Smith (baritone), Isabella Crisante (piano)
Rec 4-6 August 2015

CD 5 [51:40]
1. Allons voir (1885, CS69) [3:13]
2. Marina (1885, CS70) [4:41]
3. O dolce sera! (1885, CS71) [4:41]
4. Rosa (1885, CS72) [4:06]
5. Vorrei (1885) [CS73) [3:49]
6. La mia mandola è un amo (1885, CS74]
7. Yesterday (1885, CS75) [4:59]
8. Bid Me Goodbye (1885, CS76) [3:59]
9. My Love and I (1885, CS77) [5:16]
10. It Came With the Merry May, Love (1885, CS78) [3:11]
11. The Love That Came Too Late (1885, CS79) [5:23]
12. We Watch and Wait (1885, CS80) [4:42]
Monica Bacelli (mezzo-soprano), Mark Milhofer (tenor), Antonio Ballista (piano)
Rec.19-21 July 2015

 

 




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