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Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916)
1916: The Last Songs for Soprano and Piano
La Sera [10:10]
Consolazione [16:22]
Due piccoli notturni [4:57]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Piccolo valzer (1894) [3:49]
Riccardo PIACENTINI (b. 1958)
Aimez quand on vous aime! (2016) [9:58]
Duo Alterno ((Tiziana Scandaletti (soprano), Riccardo Piacentini (piano))
rec. 2017, Lazzarino Pianoforte Studios, Acqui Terme Studio in Sintesi, Torino,
Sung texts enclosed but no translations

Tosti’s songs have long been favourites by singers as well as audiences, and in particular tenors – Italians as well as other nationalities – have with great pleasure taken them to their hearts. Recordings also exist with most of the big names from Caruso and onwards – and they continue to arrive. Lest than a year ago Brilliant Classics issued a 5-CD-box with 114 songs in chronological order (review), the first volume in what is to be a complete survey of Tosti’s songs, and keeping in mind that he wrote nearly 400, we can expect at least two more boxes. The project was initiated in 2014/2015 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death in 1916. What struck me, and probably many others, was that a considerable number of these supposedly ‘tenor’ songs was performed by female voices, and the issue now under consideration follows suit and presents an all-soprano recital.

Here we are at the other end of the chronology, concentrating on mainly songs from Tosti’s last years, with the main emphasis on two cycles from 1916, La sera (The Evening) and Consolazione (Consolation) – both settings of poems by Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863 – 1938). The titles of both cycles give a hint that the eternal sleep is approaching – an equivalent to Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, and most of the songs are permeated with afterglow, brevity, lapidarity. The piano introduction to Non pianger più, the first song of Consolazione, is hesitant, fragmentary – minimalistic in a way – and there is a restraint that is far removed from the Tosti we know. In the last two songs of La sera, both at least partly in ¾-time, we recognise melodic phrases that he might have penned in the 1880s as well, even more so in Resta in sogno!, a separate song from the same year.

In the appendix we find three further songs from a few years earlier, all three settings of D’Annunzio. Also here there is a nocturnal mood that glues them together with the rest. I only wish they had been better sung. Tiziana Scandaletti certainly has the feeling for the songs and the texts, but today the vocal resources are insufficient. The tone is frayed and acidulous and the vibrato disfigures so many of her insightfully moulded phrases. Listening through the deficiencies one realises that if recorded a few years earlier this could have been a valuable disc, considering the well-chosen programme and the comprehensive liner notes, though the English translation is sometimes rather quirky.

The appendix also contains two piano pieces. The first For Ever and For Ever, a charming little ditty by Tosti from 1879, and, for some reason a Piccolo valzer from 1894 by Puccini, which is nothing else but a blueprint for Musetta’s aria from the second act of La bohème. Under the heading “After a Century…” we find a composition by Riccardo Piacentini, the pianist of the disc, titled Aimez quand on vous aime!, which is a rare duet by Tosti. The composition, in two parts, is a “foto suoni”, the photo sounds (!) from Ortona, Tosti’s home town. The first part is “without piano” which means we hear real sounds, distant voices, some traffic noises for a little more than 4 minutes. The second part is the same sounds, but “with piano” – improvisations on the Tosti duet. This piece is moreover 1½ minutes longer than the first one. Seems utterly pointless.

Regrettably I wasn’t able to foster more enthusiasm for this issue; it feels like a golden opportunity sadly wasted.

Göran Forsling

Contents (Tosti)

La sera (Text by Gabriele D’Annunzio) (1916)
1. Introduzione [1:30]
2. I. Rimanete, vi prego, rimanete qui [0:33]
3. II. Ci ferirebbe forse, come un dardo la luce [1:41]
4. III. Ma chi vide più larghi profondi occhi [1:37]
5. IV. E quale cosa eguaglia nella vita del mio respiro [2:17]
6. V. Piangi, tu che hai nei grandi occhi la mia anima [2:37]

7. Resta nel sogno! (Text by Bruno Vignola) (1916) [2:33]
8. Anima mia (Text by Gabriele D’Annunzio) (1915) [1:06]
9. Parole del ricordo mio! (Text by Roberto Bracco) [1916) [2:11]

Consolazione (Text by Gabriele D’Annunzio) (1916)
10. I. Non pianger più [2:31]
11. II. Ancora qualche rosa è ne’ rosai ... [1:11]
12. III. Tanto accadrà, ben che non sia d’aprile ... [1:38]
13. IV. Perché ti neghi con lo sguardo stanco? [1:30]
14. V. Sogna, sogna, mia cara anima! [3:16]
15. VI. Settembre (di’: l’anima tua m’ascolta? ...) [2:13]
16. VII. Quanto ha dormito, il cembalo! [1:09]
17. VIII. Mentre che fra le tende scolorate... [2:56]

18. Ninna Nanna (Text by Gabriele D’Annunzio) (1912) [3:05]

Due piccoli notturni (Text by Gabriele D’Annunzio) (1911):
19. I. Van li effluvi de le rose [2:43]
20. II. O falce di luna calante [2:14]

21. For ever and for ever (1879) [2:43]

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