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Domenico CIMAROSA (1749-1801)
Overtures - 4
I sdegni per amore: Overture (1776) [8:17]
La finta Frascatana: Overture (1776) [7:08]
I tre amanti: Overture (1777) [7:38]
Le donne rivali: Overture (1780) [8:08]
I finti nobili: Overture (1780) [5:57]
Il pittor parigino: Overture (1781) [10:00]
L'amante combattuto dalle donne di punto – La Biondolina: Overture (1781) [5:03]
Giunio Bruto: Overture (1781) [7:00]
L’amor costante (1782) [6:55]
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, Pardubice / Michael Halász
rec. 2014, The House of Music, Pardubice, Czech republic
NAXOS 8.573459 [66:26]

There is a great deal to enjoy in this album. The selections are all tuneful and appealing. The conductor, Michael Halász, understands the Classical style. He moves things along without becoming driven – the opening Allegro con spirito of L’amor costante, in fact, is surprisingly relaxed – but he does tend to let changes of texture, rather than of actual volume, indicate dynamic contrasts, and the players get unstuck here and there in I finti nobili. I would also have preferred more emphasis on the dissonant grace notes in L’amante combattuto. The Pardubice ensemble, at least as recorded, seems unusually well stocked with basses for a “chamber orchestra”. They provide a sturdy foundation for the compact sonority without weighing it down.

It takes a while to get to the really good stuff. For me, what makes this composer stand out is his wind writing. Solos are unfailingly lovely and idiomatic; translucent blocks of tone from the wind choir seduce the ear. Even simple, sustained oboe and horn notes fill in amid the busy strings without causing clutter. (You can hear all of this in Cimarosa’s opera Il matrimonio segreto, and enjoy a good comic opera in the bargain.) In this programme, however, the first four pieces – all tripartite, fast-slow-fast sinfonie (think Mozart 32) – have a generic, string-dominant sound, with the winds merely reinforcing the tuttis. It was only in I finti nobili that I started hearing what I would call the real Cimarosa, including a little horn duet, an extended oboe theme, and, for the recap, a clean, clear flute solo. There is more to come: in Il pittor parigino, some of those sustained tones, including a oboe note below the bustling strings; in Giunio Bruto, a woodwind-and-horn hunting call. The bristling L’amante combattuto reverts to a more conventional style, but the woodwind doublings register more vividly than they did in the earlier pieces.

Mind you, Cimarosa’s imagination still comes through, even where his woodwinds do not. In the three-part sinfonie, most of the slow central movements are in duple meter, yet composer and conductor keep them buoyant. I sdegni per amore and Il pittor parigino even suggest a Minuettish grace. Only the Andante con moto of I tre amanti comes off as square. And, throughout the album, the breezy, unbuttoned exuberance of the Allegros is consistently fetching.

The recording is full and present. The lighter textures evince a spacious acoustic that does not, however, distract from or interfere with the full passages.

Try it. You will like it – some of it, probably, more than the rest.

Stephen Francis Vasta

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