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Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916)
Stanisław Daniel Kotliński (baritone)
Marco Balderi (piano)
rec. 2018, European Music Center Matecznik “Mazowsze” in Otrębusy, Poland
DUX 1482 [77:00]

Francesco Paolo Tosti’s parlor songs have been favorite concert works and pedagogical pieces since the late 19th century, yet they are somehow not recorded with the frequency one would expect given their enduring popularity with singers. Sir Francesco (he was knighted by his friend Edward VII in 1908) wrote reams of songs with shocking fluency. Nearly all of his scores possess memorable tunes, treacly words, and a pleasant rhythmic swing. This new collection from the Polish record label Dux brings together most of Tosti’s popular songs in one place. We are lacking only Marechiare, Luna d’estate, and Mattinata; all the other chestnuts are in place. According to the CD booklet, this is the first-ever Polish Tosti disc.

Though initially trained in Poland, the baritone Stanisław Daniel Kotliński also studied in Italy with Fedora Barbieri and Rolando Panerai. The late Panerai contributed a note to the booklet, emphasizing the pedagogical value of Tosti’s songs and endorsing the performances of Kotliński and Balderi. The musicians give sensitive renditions of the songs, finding many shades of color and bestowing upon this slight music a sense of dignity that is occasionally lacking in some performances. The line between sentiment and sentimentality is never crossed, a difficult balancing act that Kotliński and Balderi manage with ease.

The songs proceed as one would expect, with only a few surprises. One oddity is found in the famous Ideale. The two verses are sung in Italian. The song is then repeated in a stilted English singing translation by one Harrison Millard; this is presumably the translation printed in the Victorian-era score. Kotliński’s English diction is not as strong as his Italian. As a result, this track and “Good-bye!” are not as successful as the others. I do miss the presence of Marechiare in particular, if only because it has more pep than the majority of the introspective and lyrical songs found on the album.

If you do not yet have any Tosti in your collection, this is not necessarily the best place to start. Individual performances from a host of historical singers like Tito Schipa, Beniamino Gigli, Mattia Battistini, and others provide the listener with classic Italianate timbre and confident panache that is not replicated here. Kotliński’s sound is darker and more wooly than that of most Italian singers, and his vocal production occasionally obscures the pitch. There are not many easily-found collections of Tosti’s songs, however, so if you would like an entire album to add to your Tosti lineup, these musicianly performances might fit the bill.

Richard Masters

La Serenata
L'ultima canzone
Preghiera (Alla mente confusa)
Chanson de l'Adieu
Ridonami la calma (Preghiera)
A vucchella
Non t'amo piu
Lacci d'amore
Quattro canzoni d'Amaranta



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