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Martucci: La Canzone Dei Ricordi; Respighi / Madalin, English Chamber Orchestra

Release Date: 10/13/2009 
Label:  Helios   Catalog #: 55049   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Giuseppe MartucciOttorino Respighi
Performer:  Carol Madalin
Conductor:  Alfredo Bonavera
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MARTUCCI La canzone dei ricordi. Notturno. RESPIGHI Il tramonto Alfredo Bonavera, cond; Carol Madalin (mez); English CO HELIOS 55049 (55:45 Text and Translation)

This is a reissue on Hyperion’s budget Helios label of a recording made in 1987. It doesn’t turn up in the Fanfare Archive, but coincidentally, a dozen years later another recording containing the exact Read more same grouping of works does show up in a review by Ian Lace in 22:4. That recording on Claves, and still available, is with mezzo Brigitte Baileys and Jesús López-Cobos leading the Chamber Orchestra of Lausanne. Lace had nothing but good things to say about it. Elsewhere, I review a brand new recording of Martucci’s La canzone dei ricordi on Naxos with mezzo Silvia Pasini, a performance I very much liked, and in fact preferred to Mirella Freni’s more frenetic “Wagnerian” version with Riccardo Muti and La Scala Philharmonic.

Giuseppe Martucci (1856–1909) wrote his La canzone dei ricordi (“The Song of Memories”) in 1886. For those unfamiliar with the work, it’s a setting of seven poems by Rocco Pagliera. I suppose it would be glib, and a flawed analogy at best, to call Pagliera’s poems the Italian Reader’s Digest version of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past —certainly it’s no madeleine that sets off Pagliera’s stream of half-waking, half-dreaming, auto-erotic fantasies. Rather, it’s the eternal “she,” the mystery of “woman.” Though Martucci is said to have been strongly influenced by Wagner, the limpid melodic lines and pastel orchestral tints he adopts for these 1886 song settings strike me more as anticipating Puccini’s La bohème and, even more presciently, a moment or two in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande . Martucci’s formal design is interesting. Each song ends in a different key from which it began. The song that follows it begins in the key in which the previous song ended. The circularity of the cycle thus returns us to the poem and the harmonic point of departure from which it began.

Martucci’s Notturno was originally written in 1888 for solo piano and subsequently orchestrated by the composer. Atmospheric and fragrant with the scents of an evening stroll through a garden of alyssum, lilac, and lavender, the piece is everything a Romantic nocturne should be. Play this to set the mood for your next amorous encounter. It practically comes with a money-back guarantee.

Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936) is not generally thought to have been influenced by Wagner. In fact, he spent some time in Russia studying with Rimsky-Korsakov. Respighi’s first composition teacher, however, was Martucci, so it’s possible that he did absorb some of the German opera composer’s influence the way one absorbs second-hand smoke. I mention this because, ironically, Respighi’s 1918 Il tramonto (“The Sunset”), adapted from Shelley’s poem of the same name, is rather more Wagnerian than is Martucci’s La canzone dei ricordi , though it was Martucci who fell under Wagner’s sway. Though the poetic text is somewhat similar in subject matter to Pagliera’s poems set by Martucci, Respighi’s musical setting is of a quite different conception. While a Respighi-Schoenberg connection may be even more tenuous than a Respighi-Wagner link, one has to wonder if Respighi wasn’t familiar with Schoenberg’s 1908 String Quartet No. 2 in F?-Minor, which adds a soprano voice to the quartet ensemble, for Respighi’s Il tramonto was in fact originally written for string quartet and mezzo-soprano. On this recording, it is heard in its version for string orchestra, which does little more than double the string parts and reinforce the cellos with a part for double bass. Stylistically, the piece sounds nothing like the Schoenberg, though the freely chromatic harmony and irregular progressions that grew out of Wagner would, of course, eventually lead to Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School of composers. If you can imagine what Brünnhilde’s plea to Wotan in Wagner’s Die Walküre might sound like if some of its pages became hopelessly jumbled and merged with pages from “Der Einsame im Herbst” in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde , you will have some idea of what Respighi’s Il tramonto sounds like. It’s a beautiful piece that has had several recordings—my personal favorite being the one with Anne Sofie von Otter and the Brodsky Quartet in the original string quartet version on Challenge—but those whose familiarity with Respighi’s music does not extend much beyond his Roman trilogy may find themselves a bit surprised and perplexed.

Carol Madalin, who sings in the two vocal works, was not familiar to me, but on evidence of this recording, she has (or had) a magnificent mezzo voice. Who she is, or where she has been and what she has been doing since this recording was made almost two-dozen years ago, I haven’t a clue. This appears to be the sole listing in the catalog for her. Google wasn’t much help, turning up only one reference other than this recording, an announcement of a March 13, 2009, choral concert at the Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville, Illinois. She is listed on the program as the singer in an Alleluia by Robert Sterling. Perhaps a Fanfare reader or contributor with more comprehensive knowledge of vocalists and the opera scene than I have can shed some light. Since I haven’t heard the Baileys/López-Cobos recording that Lace reviewed, I’m not able to compare it to the version at hand. But if you don’t already have these works in your collection, the excellent performances and budget price are two reasons I can recommend this disc.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

La canzone dei ricordi by Giuseppe Martucci
Performer:  Carol Madalin (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Alfredo Bonavera
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1886-1887; Italy 
Nocturnes (2), Op. 70: no 1 in G flat major by Giuseppe Martucci
Conductor:  Alfredo Bonavera
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891; Italy 
Il tramonto by Ottorino Respighi
Performer:  Carol Madalin (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Alfredo Bonavera
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; Italy 

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