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  41:5 (05-06 /2018)
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Erato 9029576529

Code-barres / Barcode : 190295765293


Outil de traduction ~ (Très approximatif)
Translator tool (Very approximate)

Reviewer: David Cutler

As a rather nervous student trying to impress a doubtful singing teacher, I first chose a song that belonged to a book, Twenty Four Italian Songs and Arias of the 17th and 18th centuries, edited by musicologist Alessandro Parisotti. Composers of these arias and songs ranged from Caccini, Caldara, and Lotti to Handel. This collection was designed not just to provide singers with some useful concert numbers, but also to advance young singers in their bel canto training. These items have been recorded by singers past and present, including Gabriella Gatti, Ezio Pinza, and, perhaps most famously as far as historical singers are concerned, Beniamino Gigli. He recorded a number of these in the late 1940s with orchestra when he was approaching 60 years of age. They are sung with love and affection and a lot of voice considering his age. However they are historically uninformed and remote from 21st-century ideas, as illustrated in the album under review. For example, Per la gloria is sung with lovely head voice and with much emotion. Vittoria, mio core has splendid contrast in the middle verses with its plangent tones, but everything is aspirated. An earlier example is Amarilli. Recorded in 1939, it is sung in a gorgeous half voice but with the notes lifted from below. It also sounds crooned sometimes and simply does not match the modern view of how these arias should be performed. And so it went on, with Richard Tucker, Tito Gobbi, Carlo Bergonzi, and even an early recording by Cecilia Bartoli, who does manage this repertoire much more effectively, with some spritely singing and full-blooded Italianate tone in her early album with György Fischer at the piano.

So, on to Nathalie Stutzmann. Now in her early 50s, she leads her own ensemble or chamber orchestra, Orfeo 55, which has specialised in Baroque repertoire but has also tackled Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Schoenberg. This CD can be described as revelatory, with the removal of all the bad old traditions. Stutzmann’s aim is to sing them as originally written, as she has investigated where Parisotti derived his material from, in a sort of reverse musicology. As the booklet says, this has led to “orchestral versions with basso continuo which brings a richness and a different perspective.” For Quella fiamma the research, Stutzmann says, “allowed them to complete the cantata from which Parisotti had taken only one aria,” also misattributing it to Benedetto Marcello instead of the correct Francesco Conti. Stutzmann and her ensemble are entirely convincing in the Baroque sound, and she provides rich and virtuosic singing, whether in the above-mentioned speedy Vittoria, mio core or the luscious love song Amarilli.

The orchestra is a taut ensemble conducted in a spritely and spirited fashion throughout. These arias are now sharper, fleeter, and lacking in nostalgia, a good thing. Stutzmann knocks a minute off Gigli in many of the songs. The recording is quite close-miked, so we hear intakes of breath a bit too much. However we also hear the detail in the orchestration quite clearly. The album also breaks up the singing with a few purely orchestral renditions. Praise be, Erato provide text and translations in an interesting booklet. This disc is highly recommended for its originality as well as some excellent singing, bringing these songs to life for a new generation.

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