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John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, July 2010

The sound is clean and wide, with moderate depth. It is a pleasant, easy-listening sound of a kind that might be heard from a reasonably close distance in a medium-sized concert hall. It also has good body and vigorous dynamics…it is certainly a strong consideration on this budget-conscious Naxos reissue. I just wish there was more variety to the music…

Derek Warby
MusicWeb International, April 2008

Domenico Cimarosa was a phenomenally successful composer and probably the most famous Italian composer of the second half of the eighteenth century—something else to annoy Salieri, no doubt. Between 1772 and his death he wrote 65 operas, many of which enjoyed tremendous acclaim during his lifetime. Haydn is known to have conducted performances of thirteen of them at Eszterháza—several of them more than once. Both Eugène Delacroix and Stendhal compared Cimarosa’s operas very favourably with Mozart’s. Goethe was also an admirer and in 1797—not 1791 as the booklet suggests—introduced L’impresario in angustie to the court theatre in Weimar. This was in his own specially-prepared German version with some numbers from Mozart’s Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario) spliced in.

After the success of his first commedia per musica, Le stravaganze del conte in 1772 Cimarosa’s fame spread quickly. He became closely associated with opera houses in Rome, Milan (La Scala), Naples and Venice. Between December 1787 and the summer of 1791 Cimarosa was maestro di cappella for Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg. In this he continued a distinguished line of Italian composers that had included Manfredini and Galuppi. Upon his return from Russia he spent two years as Kappellmeister for Leopold II in Vienna, during which time Cimarosa’s most famous and enduring opera Il matrimonio segreto was premiered in February 1792.

Among the reasons for Cimarosa’s success was his knack for writing witty and entertaining ensemble numbers in his operas. Liberally scattered among them are numerous duets, trios, quartets and larger ensemble pieces. His music is charming, melodically inventive but, to my ears not nearly in the same league as the composer from whom Delacroix and Stendhal found it hard to distinguish him.

Cimarosa’s overtures were written separately from and have no thematic links to the operas they were designed to open. Some of Cimarosa’s operas had several overtures written for them for different productions; two overtures that opened L’impresario in angustie are to be found on this disc. Many of the overtures on this CD are simple four or five-minute curtain-raisers. I found some very attractive, such as the lively opening overture to Voldomiro—apparently only performed once in Turin in 1787—L’infedeltà fedele, Cleopatra and the relatively well-known Il matrimonio segreto, all of which have a lively and appealing Italianate style. Others are in the by then rather archaic three-section Sinfonia configuration, such as Le stravaganze del conte, Il ritorno di Don Calendrino and Il convito, which also served as an alternative overture for L’impresario in angustie.

Taken as a whole, this disc is enjoyable, although perhaps not all at one sitting. I’m not sure how well it would stand up to repeated listening as, despite Delacroix and Stendhal’s claims, Cimarosa was no Mozart (or Haydn) and the lack of true substance in these charming pieces soon becomes apparent. However, it is a worthwhile collection of music from a period when Mozart didn’t have it all his own way in the opera house.

This recording was originally issued on Marco Polo 8.225181 and dates from April 2000. The Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia plays crisply and keenly, with a real sense of style, ably directed by Alessandro Amoretti. The acoustic of the Phoenix Studio in Budapest has a warmth and depth that suggests a concert hall rather then a studio and beautifully complements the spirited performances.

Patrick Rucker
Fanfare, March 2008

The cultivation of Cimarosa at the most musical of 18th-century Hungarian courts has a felicitous contemporary echo in these excellent performances of a bouquet of overtures by a fine group of Hungarian musicians, conducted by Alessandro Amoretti. …The sound of the disc is dimensional, lively, and detailed. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, October 2007

Domenico Cimarosa is regarded as one of the foremost Italian opera composers during the second part of the 18th century. He vied with Salieri and Paisiello, the latter said to have been intriguing against Cimarosa, just as there is said to have been animosity between Mozart and Salieri. Cimarosa grew up near Naples, where his family later moved. There he was able to get a good education, not only in music. When he was 23 he got his first commission to write an opera, a buffa entitled Le stravaganze del conte, the overture to which is on this disc. It was a success, as was his next essay in the genre. Soon he was sought after throughout Italy. In the mid-1780s he moved to Florence and in 1787 received an invitation from Empress Catherine II of Russia to come to St Petersburg, where he stayed four years. In 1792 he moved to Vienna on an invitation from Emperor Leopold II and there produced his masterpiece, Il matrimonio segreto, which is regarded as one of the best buffa operas ever. Today his reputation rests practically only on this work, which is still performed. It is also famous in the history books for being so appreciated by the Emperor that the company had to reprise the whole work the same evening. This disc presents the overture in a world premiere recording of the Vienna version which is longer than the established version.

Cimarosa later returned to Naples, where he was politically active in the liberal party and was condemned to death. Through influential friends this sentence was commuted to banishment. He planned to go back to St Petersburg but his health deteriorated quickly and he died in Venice in 1801.

His list of works is impressive and only his operas, most of them in the buffa genre, come to close to one hundred. Even though most of them are forgotten today there are occasional revivals. I was lucky enough to catch a performance of Il mereato di Malmantile in Dubrovnik more than thirty years ago. There I also heard and saw the short intermezzo giocoso Il maestro di cappella for bass-baritone and orchestra, hilariously sung and acted by the great Sesto Bruscantini.

Cimarosa’s music is light and melodic, very often with a joyous atmosphere. He was a skilled orchestrator, even though he lacked the individuality and the psychological insight of Mozart. On the surface the two are rather similar and Mozart lovers should find Cimarosa to their liking.

The twelve overtures on this disc—and there is obviously more to come since this one is marked ‘vol. 1’—are mainly lively and energetic and make a good evening’s listen. It is not wall-paper music, since there are always attractive things to keep the listener alert. It can be an unexpected turn of a phrase here or a sudden general pause. It is no wonder, to judge from the overture, that his debut opera Le stravaganze del conte, became a success, since it is truly infectious, fizzing along at rollicking speed. The Matrimonio segreto overture starts surprisingly solemn for a buffa with the first chords sounding almost like Die Zauberflöte, but then Cimarosa lets his hair down in his accustomed manner. This Vienna version differs in several ways from what we normally hear: among other things there is an oboe solo as the second theme which was omitted later. For a good recording of that version—and a superb reading of the complete opera—I strongly recommend Barenboim’s recording on DG.

For Il ritorno di Don Calendrino Cimarosa composed an extra long overture, partly through recycling the overture from L’Armida imaginara and adding two new movements, a beautiful Andantino and a spirited concluding Allegro.

There is enough variation in the music to allow the disc to spin until the end without the need for a pause—partly of course since it spans a period of twenty years, during which the composer undoubtedly developed. High-spirited most of it is but he also writes a slow mid-section in the Il convito overture, where there is a fine French horn solo.

Alessandro Amoretti is well versed in the music of this period and Esterházy Sinfonia is a splendid modern instrument ensemble. The producer/engineer couple Ibolya Tóth and János Bohus have also done a good job with the sonics.

Since there is probably little chance to hear these overtures live and since other recordings are in short supply this is a golden opportunity to make the acquaintance of some of the most spirited music of the late 18th century.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2007

Domenico Cimarosa was one of the most fashionable composers working in Italy in the second half of the 18th century, his success in the theatre leading to the composition of around 65 operas. Life however had not started out well, his father dying shortly after the boy’s birth, his early charitable education eventually taking him to study music in the Conservatoire di S. Maria di Loreto. His early career finds him playing in the court of Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg, then moving into imperial service in Vienna, and finally back to Naples. Most of his operas were lighthearted, his overtures the forerunner of Rossini in their bubbly content. They are more interesting in the changes that Cimarosa brought about, the norm for Italian opera at the time being the three-sections of an opening Sinfonia, which he replaced with a single movement where thematic material is allowed to flow quite freely. It was to be Il matrimonio segreto (The secret marriage) from 1791 that ensured his name in posterity. First performed two months after Mozart’s death, it proved so popular it eclipsed Mozart’s stage works, and was soon heard throughout the world. The disc does not offer the frequently performed version, but gives the first recording of the one Cimarosa used for the opera’s Vienna premiere. The 12 tracks take us through much of Cimarosa’s career, and in addition to the bubbly humour, several tracks cover his serious’operas, mainly composed in his St. Petersburg days, the dark and slow opening to La vergine del sole (The Sun Virgin), setting the scene to a dramatic story in Peru. The performances are nicely shaped and sound to have come straight from the theatre, the Hungarian orchestra playing on modern instruments with a sense of period style. The disc was first available on the Marco Polo label in 2002, the sound quality transparent as befits the music.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, August 2007

If you missed out on this delightful potpourri of high-energy, orchestral tidbits from Domenica Cimarosa’s (1749–1801) operas when it was offered a few years ago, here’s your second chance! Not only that, but this Naxos re-release is less than half the price of the original one on Marco Polo, making it a must for all classical-period music enthusiasts. Cimarosa was Italy’s most popular composer during the last half of the eighteenth century, and wrote over sixty-five operas from which the twelve overtures, preludes and sinfonias appearing on this release are drawn. They reveal a composer who was capable of writing incredibly exciting, brilliantly orchestrated music guaranteed to move even the most lethargic couch potato.

Things get off to a roaring start with the overture to Voldomiro (1787), which at times may remind you of those by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who had just finished The Marriage of Figaro. The prelude to The Baroness Stramba (1786) contrasts slow and fast passages to great effect, while that for The Eccentricities of the Count (1772), Cimarosa’s very first opera, features a lovely central episode, which sounds like an orchestral imitation of someone strumming a guitar.

Next up, we have the overture to Cimarosa’s best known opera The Secret Marriage (1792). It’s performed here for the first time on disc in its original version, which includes a lovely melody for the oboe that was later cut. By the way, there’s a strange similarity between the beginning of this and Mozart’s overture to The Magic Flute (1791). Could Domenico have known Wolfie’s opera? Moving right along we have the prelude to Faithful Infidelity (1779), where elements of opera buffa with opera seria are combined as evidenced by the presence of comic as well as tragic sounding passages. Although the opera is long since forgotten, the introduction to The Return of Don Calendrino (1778) is a glorious, nine-minute, three-movement sinfonia, which may remind you of those by Antonio Rosetti (1746–1792). The Carpenter (1780) achieved great success and was even staged by Franz Josef Haydn at Eszterhaza in 1783–84. The tiny sampling we have of it here is a sheer delight. Cimarosa wrote his Cleopatra (1789) for Catherine the Great and the prelude features some fancy fiddling that’s a treat for the ear.

The introduction to The Banquet (1782) is another nine-minute, three-movement sinfonia with some fine feathered-sounding passages that anticipate Haydn’s Hen Symphony (No. 83 in G Minor, 1785). Do you suppose one of the dishes being served was chicken cacciatore! Also written for the Russian court, The Virgin Sun (1788) was set in what was then considered the exotic land of Peru. There are energetic outbursts from the strings and timpani in the overture which portend an earthquake and volcanic eruption that take place later in the opera. An opera buffa, The Gullible One (1786) is about a man attempting to marry off his daughter, who is rumored to be mad. Maybe she really was, because the overture is pretty crazy in a frenetic classical way, and a barrel of fun.

The disc concludes with a prelude to another opera dating from 1786, The Impresario in Distress. Apparently this was one of Cimarosa’s most successful works, and there are at least five different versions of the opening number. The best known one is performed here, and it’s a real winner. Conductor Alessandro Amoretti and the Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia play up a storm in every one of these delightful classical concoctions, and the sound is good. There’s never a sullen second on this welcome reissue!

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group