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Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, December 2011

Golovin is witty and romantic. It’s on pretty much the same latitude as Puccini on the one hand and Barber’s Vanessa on the other. The cut and thrust of the conversation is witty and intelligent rather like Barber’s A Hand of Bridge. Listen to the Act III repartee about modern composers as against the greats of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries between Zuckertanz and the Mother.

The Golovin recording sounds a little enclosed but it is clear enough and certainly not a trial.

As with the other Naxos Menotti discs there is no libretto included. Instead the synopsis written by David Patmore is exceedingly well detailed on a track-by-track basis. This makes it an unalloyed joy to follow the music and keep in touch with the narrative.

The Menotti transfers were accomplished by Mark Obert-Thorn who by now should be able to write the definitive work on transferring analogue commercial sources to digital format. It would be no surprise if one of the universities had created a faculty for music transfer science and offered Dean of Faculty to Mark.

Go for this wonderful set if your favourites include Barber’s Vanessa and the Walton Violin Concerto. © 2011 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2011

Maria Golovin was Gian Carlo Menotti’s most spectacular failure, the work taken off Broadway after just five performances. It was so unexpected for such a famous composer that RCA had already recorded the work in Rome using the cast that had given the work’s premiere in Europe, their haste to have it available before it arrived in the States indicated by the use of a fine pick-up orchestra. Many reasons were given as to why it failed, the most likely being that Menotti’s operatic style was past its ‘sell by’ date, and audiences had just had a taste of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. Menotti’s own libretto was rather hackneyed, and could be told in a few words: Maria meets the blind Donato while her husband is a prisoner of war. Nothing of a physical nature takes place, but the two fall in love. When her husband is released, Maria tells Donato that she is returning to him. In a rage he takes a gun to kill her and Donato’s mother helps him by supposedly pointing the gun at Maria, though she aims it at nothing. Now believing he has killed her, he is content no one else can have her. It is a story Menotti managed to spin out to almost two hours. It has had an occasional airing since that 1958 debacle, but it failed to find a place in the repertoire. Musically it has all the Menotti fingerprints that made him famous, the orchestration tending to reflect words rather than creating the scene. That the recording was so quickly withdrawn was sad for the twenty-two year old American baritone, Richard Cross, who made such a powerful and outstanding Donato, for the disc would have jump-started his career. Two highly experienced singers, Franca Duval and Patricia Neway seem ideally cast as Maria and Donato’s mother, while the performance had the equally seasoned conductor, Peter Adler. The sound is exceptionally good, and one would have believed it would have become the definitive version. If that was a failure, the Violin Concerto was among his masterpieces, its three highly contrasting movements with a virtuoso finale proving attractive to soloists. Here it is performed by Tossy Spivakovsky, a violinist highly regarded in post-war years. The Boston Symphony and Charles Munch giving admirable support. Having disappeared so quickly, original copies of Maria Golovin are rare, but this outstanding transfer had the benefit of coming from two near-mint copies.

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