Notturno is the eighth volume of Opera Rara’s acclaimed Il Salotto series and is essentially an album of duets, 14 in all. Literally translated as ‘nocturne’ the songs on this disc bear little resemblance to the piano pieces of the same name as exemplified by those of Chopin.
The term notturno is perhaps closer to the 18th century notturno, which basically meant an instrumental serenade performed late at night. Similarly, notturni were written for salon performances at a musical soirée. In any case, it is a mistake to assume that the vocal notturno is limited to specific subject matter, such as songs of the night or musical moods, such as dreamy languor. L’aurora, the final track on the disc, from Donizetti’s song collection Notti d’estate, in fact, is about dawn and has along with most of the other nottorni from this collection, a brisk tempo reflecting an affirmative message.
While the tone of the songs on this disc is primarily up-beat, they are not entirely bereft of references to love’s heartache. In Donizetti’s Ti sento sospiri, the mood is nevertheless joyful because the focus is on a remedy – a single pleasure. Verdi’s piece simply entitled Notturno compares the object of the speaker’s love unfavourably to a female nightingale because the latter offers comfort to her mate. The most poignant moment comes with Bellini’s song La ricordanza, a recollection of lost love. The source of the relationship’s demise is left a mystery and adds to the song’s allure.
With an introduction and notes to the songs by George Loomis the eminent musicologist and music critic, the fully illustrated 68 page booklet keeps the listener involved with this intriguing programme.
“Here are all the virtues of an Opera Rara release and a poignant reminder of how much we owe to Patric Schmid who died so suddenly. Best of all… Rossini's 'Les Amants de Séville', a so-called sin from the composer's old age that is soon forgiven when sung so gracefully by Larmore and Ford.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2006 *****