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Complete Music for Soprano and Guitar
The Divan of Moses Ibn Ezra (1966) [32.54]
Ballata dall’Esilio (1956) [4.42]
Arise from the Shakespeare Songs Vol. 6 No. 2 (1921) [1.26]
Seals of Love from the Shakespeare Songs Vol 4 No. 2 (1923) [0.53]
Romance del Conde Arnaldos (1935) [2.54]
La Ermita de San Simon (1934) [2.15]
Joanna Klisowska (soprano)
Giulio Tampalini (guitar)
rec. Bartok Studio, Bernareggio (MB), Italy, 2016

Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s The Divan of Moses Ibn Ezra is a late work written within two years of the composer’s death. Both he and Moses ibn Ezra (1055/1060 – c. 1138) were Jews and both experienced exile: the composer to Hollywood to escape Fascist Europe in 1939 and the Spanish poet to Castille from his home in Granada when it was conquered by Berber Almoravids.

Ibn Ezra’s verses, proclaiming themes that are timeless and universal, are about the human condition, its joys and sorrows and tribulations. The sections and individual songs’ headings are self-explanatory (see end of review). The booklet does not include the songs’ texts which is a pity, not even a reference to a web site that might afford such a facility.

Polish soprano Joanna Klisowska shows considerable empathy with the spirit of these exquisitely conceived and moving songs. She has the most mellifluous tone, delivering consistently perfectly controlled, pointed and affectingly expressive, arching legato lines, so many in high registers. She is marvellously partnered by the imaginative and wholly empathetic playing of the renowned guitarist Giulio Tampalini.

To mention but a few of these songs. The opening song of the first Songs of Wondering section, establishing Spanish rhythms and atmosphere, ‘When the morning of life had passed’ is gorgeously shaped by Klisowska, both she and Tampalini regretful; then in that section’s final song, ‘Wrung with anguish’ they are just that; a troubled, utterance with the guitar striking staccato notes beneath, what one might think, as the soprano’s more readily acceptance. In the next section Songs of Friendship, there is the hauntingly lovely central song – the most substantial of the work – ‘Fate has blocked the way’ with exquisitely rendered partnering of voice and guitar. The third song ‘O brook’ is Tampalini’s. He steals the attention with evoking so realistically the twisting, turning tumbling, hurrying waters. Of wine and the delights of the sons of men is, despite that title, somewhat gloomy in character save for the third sunnier song, ‘The garden dons a coat of many hues’ that suggests a ray of hope and consolation, the artists’ song dancing, tripping lightly along. The World and its vicissitudes section is distinguished by the lovely, comforting invocation, ‘Only in God I trust.’ The second song, ‘The world is like a woman of folly’ has wry humour, a plea to banish the world’s madness. The mood is lighter, rollicking; the Spanish dance rhythms are marked and the guitarist often knocks on the sound board of his instrument for emphasis. The last section, The Transience of the World before the Epilogue has six songs of which ‘Let man remember all his days and ‘I have seen upon the earth’ are memorable. The former has an appealing sort of stately pathos while the latter is a gentle song, almost waltz-like affording the soprano coloratura opportunities.

Of the other items in this programme, the Ballata dall’Esilio is the work of another Italian exile - the 13th century poet Guido Cavalcanti who hailed from Florence. The soprano line is tenderly appealing although one wonders about the morse-code like, signals, the guitar delivers beneath her? A warning? The two Shakespeare songs, composed much earlier than the great Divan, illustrate Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s great enthusiasm for the Bard. The programme ends most engagingly with Romance del Conde Arnaldos and the La Ermita de San Simon. Both were originally composed for voice and piano and were arranged for voice and guitar by the composer. They have in common the early Spanish ‘Canciones’. The former song is a colourful folktale and is a relaxed tender pleading melody with its Spanish rhythms accentuated. They are even more accentuated in the latter song which is more vivacious and light-hearted.
Ian Lace
The Divan of Moses Ibn Ezra (1966) [32.54]:
Part I – Songs of Wandering [6.17]:
1) When the morning of life had passed [2.38]
2) The dove that nests in the tree-top [1.59]
3) Wrung with anguish [1.40]
Part II – Songs of Friendship [9.52]:
4) Sorrow shatters my heart [2.14]
5) Fate has blocked the way [4.15]
6) O brook [1.43]
Part III – Of Wine and the delights of the sons of men [3.21]:
7) Drink deep, my friend [0.46]
8) Dull and sad is the sky [1.04]
9) The garden dons a coat of many hues [1.31]
Part IV – The World and its vicissitudes [4.31]:
10) Men and children of this world [1.38]
11) The world is like a woman of folly [0.50]
12) Only in God I trust [2.03]
Part V – The Transience of the World [7.59]:
13) Where are the graves? [0.50]
14) Let man remember all his days [1.26];
15) I have seen upon the earth [1.45]
16) Come now, to the Court of Death [1.10]
17) Peace upon them (1.50]
18) I behold ancients’ graves [0.58]
Epilogue: Wouldst thou look upon me in my grave [2.22]



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