CECILIA BARTOLI, Mezzo-soprano / Decca 478 2558 / *****
This is a compilation of selections from several earlier albums. Sospiri is Italian for “sighs” and most of the arias here are of the slower lament-like variety. Those bedazzled by Cecilia Bartoli’s vocal acrobatics will still enjoy her superb control, perfect phrasing and enunciation. Handel’s Lascia La Spina (from Triumph Of Time And Truth) has the same music as Lascia Ch’io Pianga (Rinaldo), and Bartoli conjures a beseeching quality which go beyond mere words. Further arias by Vivaldi, Giacomelli, Caldara and Mozart confirm that excellent impression.
The bel canto selections are no less fine, typified by Bellini’s Casta Diva (Norma) and Ah! Non credea mirarti (La Sonnambula), where her silky, seamless tone passes like a dream. There is one previously unreleased track, Rossini’s Una voce poco fa (Barber of Seville), which fizzles like sparkling champagne. Three sacred pieces, Mozart’s Laudate Dominum, Franck’s Panis Angelicus and Pie Jesu from Fauré’s Requiem complete this very fine and highly enjoyable profile disc. The absence of texts or translations is however regrettable.
SONGS OF YESTERDAY
DAN LAURIN, Recorder with Anna Paradiso, Piano & Harpsichord / BIS 1785 / ****1/2
The humble recorder is often regarded a relic of the Baroque or much-maligned pedagogical instrument played by bored primary school children. This unusual collection explores a narrow niche of mid-20th century British recorder music, commissioned by Carl Dolmetsch, considered the “Father of the Modern Recorder”. The seven works span from 1939 to 1965, eschewing atonal and serial trends of the era, instead looking back at past traditions. The typically English pastoral sound lives on in Sonatinas by York Bowen, Edmund Rubbra and Walter Leigh.
The Leigh work is particularly poignant, written just a few years before his death in battle during the North African campaign. Cyril Scott’s Aubade, the longest single track here, is an impressionist meditation recalling Debussy’s atmospheric soundscapes. Early music is also relived, in Herbert Murrill’s short Sonata and Rubbra’s Passacaglia Sopra Plusieurs Regrets. In this company, Lennox Berkeley’s 11-minute-long Sonatina is arguably the undisputed masterpiece of this anthology. Swedish recorder virtuoso Dan Laurin draws an astounding mileage from the beguiling simple instrument and a sequel is keenly awaited.