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Rossini - Soirées musicales
Rossini, having composed no fewer than forty operas between the ages of nineteen and thirty-seven, wrote none in the next forty years. However these years were not barren of music. Rossini’s Soirées Musicales and Péchés de vieillesse or ‘Sins of old age’ were the musical fruits of salon evenings held weekly in his Parisian home. Elegant, witty, charming and often delicately ironic, these songs for various voices are the perfect exemplar of ‘salon music’, and of the unmistakable late style of a composer who had already become a legend in his lifetime. They are recorded here by three of the greatest singers of today: Stella Doufexis, who has appeared regularly in the Hyperion Schubert and Schumann songs editions; the wonderful Swedish soprano Miah Persson; and the American tenor and Rossini specialist Bruce Ford, all accompanied with characteristic brilliance and style by Roger Vignoles.
“With Roger Vignoles making much of Rossini's modest-looking piano parts, the three singers give virtually unalloyed pleasure. Bruce Ford, a seasoned Rossini stylist, excels in the melancholy La partenza and L'esule. Miah Persson is witty without archness in the infantile nonsense of La Chanson du bébé, while mezzo Stella Doufexis makes a spirited, sensuous Angelina ...as she gees on her gondolier lover in the delightful mini-song cycle La regata veneziana.” The Telegraph, 14th June 2008
“It is hard for any disc of Rossini’s Paris salon songs not to speed by in a wink of delight. And it’s impossible with Miah Persson’s bright soprano and the sensitive accompaniments of Roger Vignoles. The tenor Bruce Ford, so practised at trifles, isn’t far behind in glory. The mezzo Stella Doufexis occasionally thinks she’s singing opera, but the moments pass and we’re back with Rossini – never more charming than in the childish Chanson du bébé.” The Times, 30th May 2008 ****
“Doufexis is an attractive interpreter, duetting gorgeously with Persson in La Regata Veneziana, while Ford is sly and agile in La Danza. At the keyboard, Vignoles revels in the high jinks. Sheer delight.” Sunday Times, 3rd August 2008 ****
“The real start of the record is a pianist Roger Vignoles. Rossini's writing for the piano is highly idiosyncratic. It requires a first-rate technique, a sure sense of style and an ability to bring off with insouciance all manner of hair's breadth effects.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008
“This is a classic case of 'spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar', as well as further evidence of Hyperion's uncharacteristically uncertain touch with Rossini. Having taken the trouble to engage three distinguished singers to record the Soirées musicales, they have drawn the line at employing a fourth, the bass required for the final duet 'Li marinari'. The disc cannot therefore be the 'library' recording of Les soirées we currently need. After the 11 numbers from Soiréesmusicales, we are given a further nine songs plucked somewhat randomly from the later Péchés de vieillesse.
That said, there is much to enjoy on the record. The ordering and voice allocation of Lessoirées is open to variation. The eight solo songs are generally sung by a soprano or a mezzo, 'La danza' by the tenor. Here the tenor has three of the songs. In 'La danza' memories of singers from Caruso to Pavarotti are perhaps a shade too insistent. Elsewhere in Les soirées, Bruce Ford shows every sign of shifting from opera to chanson with skill and imagination; the duet 'Les amants de Séville' from Péchés in which he partners mezzo Stella Doufexis is one of the disc's highlights. The two women barely put a foot wrong, though Miah Persson's Alpine shepherdess is preferable to her somewhat overindulged bébé. The real star of the record is pianist Roger Vignoles. Rossini's writing for the piano is highly idiosyncratic. It requires a firstrate technique, a sure sense of style and an ability to bring off with insouciance all manner of hair's-breadth effects. Vignoles has the measure of all this and more.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“There isn't a low point on the entire disc. Roger Vignoles plays with all his characteristic intelligence and subtlety. Miah Persson is enchanting in the opening La Promessa...Bruce Ford is technically brilliant and dramatically engaging in the drinking song, L'orgia, and smoothly leads the mood from light to darkness with L'esule, the first of the Péchés De Vieillesse.” Charlotte Gardner, bbc.co.uk, 24th June 2008
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Il Salotto Volume 13 - Rossini Songs
“Opera Rara’s exquisite salon music series” American Record Guide
If a time-machine could take us back through the centuries, which musical occasion might we choose to attend? Surely a soirée at Rossini’s Parisian home would be high on anyone’s list. Some of the most famous singers of the day would be performing, and the guest-list would read like a who’s who of the French capital at that time. And given Rossini’s fame both as gourmet and wit, you could be sure that the food would be as excellent as the conversation would be amusing. Then, of course, there’d be the chance to hear something new by the great master himself. For though he abandoned operatic composition in 1829, Rossini went on to compose hundreds of short vocal items and piano pieces to tickle the musical palates of those lucky nough to be invited to his famous Saturday evening salons. In this latest release in Opera Rara’s Il Salotto series, we present a programme of tasty morsels from Rossini’s musical cuisine, each lovingly prepared by the master’s hand. Four more substantial entrées – including the mighty ‘Le Chant des Titans’, in which the giants threaten the god Jupiter – are served up by soloists from the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir. Why not join them, Mireille Delunsch, Jennifer Larmore, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Lawrence Brownlee and Malcolm Martineau, for an enticing musical feast!
This disc is accompanied by a fully illustrated booklet, with an introduction and notes to the songs by Rossini specialist Richard Osborne.
“Excellently performed by a team of first-rate soloists, with Malcolm Martineau, for me the best accompanist in the world, offering his usual expert support, and leading off with a solo.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2010 ****
“First of the singers is… Lawrence Brownlee… the ideal suitability of his vibrant, clear-cut tenor voice, elegance of style and technical accomplishment… When Jennifer Larmore joins him for the duet "Les amants de Séville", we are treated to some of the most delightful singing of the whole soirée. Larmore herself is in splendid form: her "Chanson de bébe" with the dear little horror's artless cries of "Pipi, maman, papa, caca" is a winner among party-pieces.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2009
Il Salotto Volume 8 - Notturno - Music for the Night
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 *****
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