Classical Music Home

The World's Leading Classical Music Group

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?
Keyword Search
in
 
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews



 
See latest reviews of other albums...

David L. Kirk
Fanfare, June 2008

Guillermo González, born in Tenerife, is a distinguished pianist who has been recording Spanish repertoire for Naxos; I greatly enjoyed his recent two-CD set of Ernesto Halffter's piano music. Now, almost a decade after recording Iberia, he has produced a second volume of the music of Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909).

This is an interestingly programmed recital, consisting of an early work (the seven-movement suite Recuerdos de viaje of 1886/7) and several works written after Albéniz had settled in Paris.

Of the latter, La Vega is the most intriguing. Intended as the first movement of an orchestral work, it was never scored, remaining instead in the form of a 15-minute fantasia for piano. Beginning with a plaintive, halting melody over a simple ostinato, it progresses through some technically tricky passages to build to a barnstorming climax (particularly in this performance), and then reverts to a calm, untroubled close. With its Debussyan textures and sweeping rhapsodic form, La vega suggests the great movements of Iberia still to come, and is in some ways even more avant-garde for its time (1897).

The Recuardos definitely belong in the 19th century. Too virtuosic to be regarded as salon music, these picturesque pieces were among the composer's earliest attempts to capture the essence of his native country. The suite includes a bolero, a malagueña, an alborada, and two barcarolles among its movements. At this time of his life, Albéniz was renowned as a concert pianist, so inevitably the work reflects the masters he would have been performing: Chopin and, in the glittering filigree decoration, Liszt. Occasionally, as in the malagueña "Rumores de la caleta" or the Alborada, a particularly Spanish thematic or rhythmic figure will suggest the direction Albéniz took later on, but most of this suite is straightforward in a prettified way; pleasantly superficial in comparison to the later masterpieces, and lacking their melodic inspiration and earthiness.

By the time of the two Souvenirs of Espagne (1896/97), the composer had become less concerned with showcasing his own pianistic prowess and more interested in tone-painting. These works display a delicacy rarely present in the earlier suite. Finally, we have two incomplete pieces from the year of the composer's death: Azulejos, which was to have been the prelude to a new suite, and Navarra. The former was completed and premiered by Granados. The latter, rounded off, as it were, by the composer's French pupil Deodat de Séverac, is often played as an additional movement to the Iberia collection, and has been recorded many times. It is tremendously challenging to play accurately (and was, in fact, the piece that convinced me my childhood dream of becoming another Horowitz was precisely that).

González plays with passion, bringing out the music's warmth. He is up against formidable competition in the late works: La vega, Espagne, and Navarra have all been recorded by Marc­Andre Hamelin, as fillers to his complete Iberia on Hyperion. Hamelin makes something sophisticated and poetic out of La vega; I prefer him in that work. Yet, while his superhuman ability to terrace dynamics stands him in good stead with Albéniz, not to mention his fluent technique and attention to detail, Hamelin's intrinsic coolness leaves you wanting more fire. His version of Navarra sports a recent, more elaborate conclusion by William Bolcom. Many critics prefer it. I still go for de Séverac's brusque ending, although it's rather thrown away by González. Alicia de Larrocha slams it out like a petulant stamp of the foot. She remains supreme in this piece, but González has his considerable strengths nonetheless. His bright piano is closely recorded in the house style.

On the basis of the above issue, this should prove to be another rewarding series from Naxos.



Nicholas del Vecchio
MusicWeb International, March 2008

"In this Naxos recording, Fogliani leads his Wurttemberg Philharmonic with just the right amount of spirit and reverence that is the essence of Rossini’s music. The San Pietro a Majella Chorus, Naples delivers both the pensive and brisk responses necessary for the ensembles, and the cast — soprano, Akie Amou as Elcia, tenor, Filippo Adami as Osiride and bass, Wojtek Gierlach as Faraone — most times keeps the vocal interest at a satisfactory level. Rosella Bevacqua as Amaltea brings clarity and a dash of excitement to La pace mia smarrita, her aria expressing compassion for the plight of the Israelites. But it is Lorenzo Regazzo who puts his vocal stamp on Moses with a wide range of vocal color and varied dynamics embodied in a rich vocal style that would, no doubt, delight Rossini."



Robert J Farr
MusicWeb International, March 2008

Mosè in Egitto was Rossini’s twenty-fourth opera at its premiere on 5 March 1818 and the fourth of the nine opera seria he composed for the Royal Theatres of Naples during his musical directorship. The date of the premiere, during Lent, determined the biblical connotations of the subject-matter just as it had done with his Ciro in Babilonia composed for Ferrara and premiered there on 14 March 1812 (review). The intrusion of the sacred into the theatre before and during the primo ottocento reflected both the function of the theatre in Italy and the influence of the Catholic Church. Every evening the social life of the locality reflected in the clientele was played out in the boxes of the opera houses, with opera being the main entertainment across the social divide, different theatres often having their own patrons. Meanwhile, the restrictive nature of the ordinances of the Catholic Church forbade the performance of opera during Lent. At the turn of the 18th century the Church, ever seeking to control the emotions of the populace, used the excuse of escape from the ravages of an earthquake to ban the popular staged performances of opera for five years as an act of thanksgiving. As a result, oratorios of ever more dramatic undercurrent became the substitute. They may not have been staged as operas, but the emotions conveyed were clear to the audience. The castrati and other singers could give vent to their singing skills in ornamentation and coloratura to their hearts content without fear of approbation or condemnation. By Rossini’s time it was common practice for theatres to present operas during Lent as long as they were based on Biblical themes. This is the case with Mosè in Egitto, with the caveat that in the opera the Biblical and interpersonal relationships are clearly separated, with the latter predominantly confined to the arias and duets while the biblical drama is the domain of the scenes with chorus and ensemble.

The libretto of Mosè in Egitto is based on a play of 1760 where Pharoah, impressed by the plagues visited on Egypt by the God of the Jews, intends to set Moses and his people free. His son Osiride, who is in love with a Jewish girl Elcia, dissuades him from doing so. Only after Osiride is struck dead by a shaft of lightning are the Israelites able to leave Egypt, but are pursued by Pharoah and his army swearing vengeance for the death. When the Israelites reach the Red Sea, Moses touches the waters with his rod causing them to part and allowing them to cross before closing again on the pursuing Egyptians.

The parting of the Red Sea in the third act, itself unusual for Rossini at this stage of his career, posed severe difficulties for the technical staff at the San Carlo and they failed to produce a convincing staging of this part of the opera. Despite this failure the work was an immediate success and soon began to circulate in Italy and abroad, including England where Biblical subjects were not allowed on stage and where it was heard in concert form as an oratorio. For the original, and as usual working against time, Rossini borrowed music from Ciro in Babilonia for Amaltea’s aria in act two (CD 1 tr.17) and called on Michele Carafa to provide an aria for Faraone, A rispettarmi apprenda (CD 1 tr.9). Rossini replaced this aria with his own composition for the 1820 revival of the work pasting his own into the signed manuscript version and returning the original to Carafa. For presentation at the San Carlo during Lent in 1819 - the basis of Charles and Patricia Bruner’s Critical Edition and of this recording - Rossini made several revisions. Most important was the addition of the choral prayer Dal tuo stellato soglio in act three (CD 2 tr.12). This, with its soaring melody, became the most popular number in the piece and helped to maintain the work through to the present day. Aware of the virtues and popularity of the opera, Rossini revised it radically as Moïse et Pharaon, a four act French version, complete with ballet, for presentation at the Paris Opéra in 1827 (review). For Paris he reduced the vocal ornamentation in favour of clear melodic lines and greatly increased the role of the chorus (representing the Children of Israel). This French version was in turn translated back into Italian using the title Mosè in Egitto. Scholars often have trouble determining exactly which version was actually performed later in the nineteenth century!

With the original 1818 score lost, the present recording is of the work in the Critical Edition. It includes the reinsertion of Amaltea’s aria which makes good dramatic sense. It was probably omitted from the original 1819 performances as the singer concerned was not considered sufficiently experienced. The opera has no overture but opens with C major chords and the terrified Egyptians whose land has been plunged into darkness (CD 1 tr.1). This recording from Bad Wildbad 2006, unlike the recently issued one of La donna del lago from Naxos (Naxos Opera Classics. 8.660235-36, review in process), was made at live performances during the annual summer festival. The orchestra and chorus are recorded significantly more forward of the soloists, a distinct disadvantage. The solo singers are also more variable than on that excellent performance. Of the two basses, Lorenzo Regazzo as Mose has most to offer (CD 1 tr.3-4, CD 2 tr.6 and CD 3 tr.3) whilst as Faraone, Wojtek Gierlach’s cavernous bass lacks a solid centre, much expression and sounds rusty in tone (CD 1 tr.9). Filippo Adami’s tightly focused tenore di grazia is flexible although he tends to squeeze the tone as he goes up the scale. Nonetheless he makes a good contribution to his duets with the Elcia of Akie Amou (CD1 tr.7 and CD 2 tr.2). She is musical and has plenty of expressive ability as well as encompassing the coloratura with skill. The lesser roles of Aronne and Mambre are well taken whilst the Amaltea of Rossella Bevacqua sings the aria originally omitted in 1819 with a creamy soprano. The chorus of San Pietro a Majella, Naples, sing quite magnificently with that squilla which only native Italians bring to music such as this. They are a great strength to the performance. Antonio Fogliani hasn’t the lightness of touch or flexibility of the likes of Alberto Zedda on the La donna del lago or Claudio Scimone on the rival Philips version ofMosè in Egitto, however he handles his chorus and soloists adequately. The audience applauds at the ends of arias, but not too obtrusively.

I was able to give the Naxos recording of La donna del lago referred to above a very strong recommendation, not only on the basis of its strengths, but also on the price differential against its rival from Opera Rara. In this case, the Philips 1991 version (420 109-2) featuring Ruggero Raimondi as Mose, June Anderson as Elcia and Ernesto Palacio as Osiride, in an all-round stronger cast than found here, and with a better-balanced sound, is at mid-price and is to be preferred.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2007

Originally scheduled as an oratorio, Rossini eventually arrived at the operatic version of Mose e Egitto first staged in Naples in 1819. Already a veteran of the theatre he was only twenty-six when he composed the score, and there are moments when his music almost slips back into the comic opera mode with which he was enjoying so much success. It was, however, in its much enlarged and amended format for Paris in 1827 that under the new name of Moise the opera eventually found a place on the edge of the opera repertoire. The present release takes the work back to the seldom performed 1819 version with minor amendments. In any event the biblical story of Moses in Egypt was only used by Rossini as a thin disguise for a conventional Italian drama of the time, the story circulating around the plight of Elcia, a Israelite girl secretly married to the Egyptian prince, Osiride. It is the plea of Moses to the Egyptians to free his people that brings about the potential separation of the couple, and so the story unfolds with the plagues that Moses invokes when Osiride continues to frustrate the Israelite's release. Rossini gave the part of Osiride to a virtuoso lyric tenor who is required to sing high in his range, the young Italian, Filippo Adami, living up to his growing reputation as a tenor with a pleasing heroic quality. His confrontation with Moses in the opening act is quite electric, while the frequent vocal acrobatics are handled with security. From Japan, Akie Amou's Elcia is silvery toned and with immaculate intonation, and blends beautifully with the mezzo, Karen Bandelow, in her small part as Amenofi. She certainly brings all the fireworks needed to her second act closing aria, to display a singer of immense potential. Wojtek Gierlach as the Pharaoh is a reliable bass that does not quite command the necessary presence of such an imposing character, and though the Moses of Lorenzo Regazzo has the required declamatory style, Rossini never supplied the character with the important arias he needs. His high point comes in the sublime third act prayer - the following chorus being the one part of the opera that everyone knows. The recording is derived from performances at last year's 'Rossini in Wildbad', with applause often breaking up the flow of the opera. The sound quality is a cut above the usual for 'live' opera, the singers not always 'on microphone' but the balance is generally very good, with the Wurttemberg Philharmonic Orchestra and their conductor, Antonino Fogliani, given real presence and definition. It is quite unforgivable, however, to have the second act split over the two discs when it could have been fitted onto the second disc and kept well within 80 minutes, particularly if unnecessary applause had been shaved. Philips have given us a previous recording back in 1982 which may be difficult to source, and as a little-known filler for your collection, this super-budget price release will be more than adequate.






Famous Composers Quick Link:
Bach | Beethoven | Chopin | Dowland | Handel | Haydn | Mozart | Glazunov | Schumann | R Strauss | Vivaldi
4:50:21 PM, 22 December 2014
All Naxos Historical, Naxos Classical Archives, Naxos Jazz, Folk and Rock Legends and Naxos Nostalgia titles are not available in the United States and some titles may not be available in Australia and Singapore because these countries have copyright laws that provide or may provide for terms of protection for sound recordings that differ from the rest of the world.
Copyright © 2014 Naxos Digital Services Ltd. All rights reserved.     Terms of Use     Privacy Policy
-208-
Classical Music Home
NOTICE: This site was unavailable for several hours on Saturday, June 25th 2011 due to some unexpected but essential maintenance work. We apologize for any inconvenience.