L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra
Reynaldo HAHN (1874 - 1947)
from Venezia - Chansons en dialecte vénitien (1901)
1. Sopra l’acqua indormenzada [3:40]
2. La barcheta [2:58]
3. L’avertimento [1:41]
4. La biondina in gondoleta [3:58]
5. Che peca! [2:38]
Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
Quattro canzoni d’Amaranta (1907)
6. Lasciami! Lascia ch’io respiri [3:21]
7. L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra [1:46]
8. In van preghi [2:05]
9. Che dici, o parola del Saggio? [4:57]
Francesco CILEA (1866 - 1950)
10. Serenata (1886) [2:16]
11. Nel ridestarmi (1923) [2:22]
12. Non ti voglio amar (1890) [2:10]
Licinio REFICE (1883 - 1954)
13. Ombra di nube (1935) [2:48]
Antonio CESTI (1623 - 1669)
14. Intorno all’idol mio (1656) [2:49]
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879 - 1936)
15. Sopra un’aria antica (1920) [5:32]
Francesco Paolo TOSTI
16. Marechiare (Canto Napoletano) [4:10]
Anna Caterina Antonacci (mezzo), Donald Sulzen (piano)
rec. live, Wigmore Hall, London, 5 December 2011
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
WIGMORE HALL LIVE WHLIVE0054 [50:30]
A Mediterranean, partly sun-drenched, partly gloomy programme - what could me more suitable for a lunchtime concert on a grey Monday in December? Many potential listeners thought so and the concert was a sell-out. The opening couldn’t be more inviting: five delightful songs in Venetian dialect by that most Gallic of charmers, Reynaldo Hahn. Anna Caterina Antonacci caresses the phrases so seductively, lingers a while over a particular line, lavishes vocal colours on the score, relishes the words and her rhythmical freedom gives that extra sense of weightlessness. They have superb rapport, the singer and the pianist and someone like Donald Sulzen who is an expert accompanist as well as a chamber musician must have flexibility in his blood.
The Hahn songs are from early on. Francesco Paolo Tosti was past sixty when he wrote these songs, was well established in London, singing master to the Royal Family and had just become a British citizen. The following year he was even knighted. The Italian sun shines through the songs even so, though there are clouds and darkness too. The texts are all by Gabriele d’Annunzio. Only L’alba separadalla luce l’ombra is at all well known but these are splendid songs, far removed from some of his popular drawing-room products. In particular Che dici, o parola del Saggio is inspired: its final stanza and postlude stay long in the memory. Maybe Antonacci and Sulzen regarded these two groups of songs as the first part of the concert. In an evening programme this would have been the right place for the interval.
What follows is in no way lightweight. Tosti for once becomes the serious kernel of a song programme. Cilea as a song composer is little known and in this group of three the first and the last are works of his youth, light-hearted and easy on the ear. Nel ridestarmi was written in middle-age by a composer who had, somewhat belatedly, adopted the impressionist language. Licinio Refice, if he is known at all, may be a name to some opera freaks who remember his greatest triumph, Cecilie, which in 1934 was a hit with Claudia Muzio in the title role. The following year he wrote for her Ombra di nube - clouds and shadow again! She recorded it the same year, shortly before her untimely death. The song is simple but affecting.
With the next song we make an excursion to times long past. Antonio Cesti wrote the opera Orontea in 1656 and Intorno all’idol mio was written for the eponymous heroine, the Queen of Egypt. Respighi also takes us back in time with in Sopra un’aria antica (On an old aria). His songs are heard now and then; they are well wrought but rarely catch the ear through melodic invention. This song is among his best.
There the announced programme ends. The audience have been as uncommonly well-behaved as the Wigmore audience usually are but during the applause the enthusiasm gets its full due with bravos and - do I even hear stamping feet? Well deserved? Oh, yes! If one wants to be pernickety one could possibly say that Antonacci’s vibrato is sometimes over-generous and that she occasionally sounds slightly worn. Under some circumstances this could be quite serious criticism but with so expressive and life-enhancing a singer it hardly matters. This is a delightful programme, delightfully executed and with delightful accompaniments. I wish I had been there!
A delightful programme, delightfully executed with delightful accompaniments. I wish I had been there!