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Robert A Moore
American Record Guide, July 2011

Secco has the right voice and style for these songs; it’s not a superb voice, but it’s very decent, with secure top notes and a lovely sotto voce. He doesn’t have the splendor of Pavarotti but he has what it takes to sing this well.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, May 2011

Return with us now to those glorious days of yesteryear, when Italian tenors (especially but not exclusively) regaled their concert audiences not with Respighi, Berio, or whatever Italian composer du jour was in vogue that season, but with the well-loved and time-tested songs of Francesco Paolo Tosti, Queen Victoria’s favorite song composer…there is no question that Tosti, with his superb if more limited melodic gift, captured to a high degree the poetic inflections of the lyrics he set…

Fortunately, Stefano Secco has a nice tenor voice, light in weight with a bright timbre, good breath support, open high notes, and a good sense of style. Yes, I miss the more honeyed tone that Caruso and di Stefano brought to some of these songs, but you can’t have everything. He’s particularly good in one of my absolute favorite Tosti songs,’A vucchella, which requires the utmost in legato and voice control. There’s a slight touch of Pavarotti in his tone—not a bad thing. Fans of the Caruso and Björling versions may miss the midrange power they produced in L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra, but Secco has his own way with the song and, within the limits he sets for himself, it works.

Some listeners, used to the orchestral accompaniments that Caruso, Gigli, and di Stefano received in these songs, may be disappointed by a piano-only accompaniment. I am not. David Abramovitz is not severely challenged in these readings—indeed, the simplicity of the piano accompaniment is one major difference between Tosti and Schubert—but he certainly plays well so far as it goes. Collectors of historical recordings, of course, have multiple versions of most of these pieces, but it’s a pleasure to have the very best of Tosti, along with two choice samples of Mascagni and Donaudy, in one album.

…you’ll find yourself enjoying the Mediterranean flavor and accent of Tosti’s music, especially in these beautifully and sensitively sung interpretations.

John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, March 2011

The very name Tosti may well conjure up memories of a parade of Italian singers from Caruso to Schipa to Pavarotti. These are songs that are written to show off the voice at its best, sweetly sentimental maybe but beautifully written and responding to sympathetic treatment. Tosti himself came from a very poor background in the east of Italy but rose to become a favorite of the Queen of Italy. His visit to London in 1875 was the start of even greater success, including appointment as singing teacher to the Royal Family, the granting of British citizenship and eventually in 1906 a Knighthood.

Any defence of these songs has to begin by accepting them for what they are. They are certainly not musically adventurous and there is more than a little family resemblance between them. Nonetheless they have charm in abundance and provided you do not seek for deeper meaning, novelty or complexity they offer much to enjoy. I have to admit to doing so enormously in almost any performance but they blossom best when the singer aims to charm rather than bludgeon the listener, and when they have the original piano accompaniment or at any rate a straightforward orchestration. There are many performances on disc that are ruined by inflated or anachronistic orchestral accompaniments. The simple charm of the original piano versions is almost always best, and that is what this disc has, played sympathetically by David Abramovitz.

It would be easy but unfair to compare Stefano Secco with the great singers who have recorded these songs in the past. He is a young singer who has sung a variety of the leading tenor roles in Italian opera. Despite having Franco Corelli as his teacher he is prepared to sing quietly and sensitively when required, and if at present he lacks the flexibility and variety of expression needed to make the most of the songs he is aware of their general style and how to put across their simple charms. I am sure that he would have made a great success in the kind of salon for which they were written. I enjoyed the recital throughout its rather modest length—a few more songs would have been welcome—and at times even found myself wishing that Naxos had announced it as Volume 1 of Tosti’s complete songs. Given the narrow character range of these songs that is quite an achievement on the part of the performers.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2011

The early 20th century fondness for drawing-room ballads, when families gathered around the piano to listen to their talented relations performing sentimental songs, is now a distant memory. For many composers it provided fame and fortune, the Italian-born Paolo Tosti, being one of the most popular. He had known such total poverty that food was a luxury, and he was in his late twenties before achieving a degree of success that allowed him to travel to London. Never had a journey been more worthwhile, for his ballads were an instant success and was awarded every honour possible. He took British nationality, became professor of singing at the Royal Academy of Music, and in 1908 was knighted by his friend King Edward VII. His output was enormous, setting Italian, French and English words with equal success, twelve included in this new release. Not all were the simple cameo you might expect, the famous Non t’amo piu (I no longer love you) ends little short of six minutes, the length of a major opera aria. In mood they were varied, and ranged from the famous love song, La Serenata, to the energizing presto of Marechiare. For all their sentimentality, his melodies were seldom cloying, the piano acting as a backdrop rather than an additional ‘voice’. Others were equally busy meeting the growing market, examples of the music of Pietro Mascagni and Stefano Donaudy occupying two tracks of a rather short disc. Stefano Secco comes from the international opera circuit where he is much in demand as a lyric tenor in the world of Puccini and Verdi. He is partnered by the American-born David Abramovitz, a pianist also much experienced in the world of opera.

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