Notes and Editorial Reviews
Mariella Devia (sop); Sergei Larin (ten); Michele Pertusi (bs); Parma Op Ens
STRADIVARIUS 11017 (2 CDs: 90:55
, no translation)
Someone has to explain to me the thinking behind a release that includes program notes in English only, but texts in Italian only! I don’t get it—and English translations of the text would be very helpful, since we don’t know many of these songs.
Although individual Verdi songs have been recorded in various recital discs, I am not aware of another recording of all 28 of them as a unit, and that gives this set real value. Detracting from that value, in addition to the lack of translations, is the worn condition of Mariella Devia’s soprano (the recording was made in 1998) and the occasionally bullish approach of Sergei Larin. Another negative for some listeners will be the arrangements for wind ensemble (with contrabass), replacing Verdi’s piano accompaniments. I have to admit that I rather enjoyed the arrangements—very tastefully and idiomatically done by Andrea Chenna. They sound to me just as I would imagine Verdi would have done them had he decided on this kind of ensemble, and the Parma Opera Ensemble plays very well indeed.
The songs, while minor Verdi, demonstrate the astonishing level of his melodic inspiration and his musical imagination, and they are a delight. Michele Pertusi is the star of the set, singing with vocal beauty and an idiomatic sense of Verdi’s style. Larin’s strong tenor is attractive, but he sings some of this music as if it were
, missing any sense of intimacy. Devia is the real puzzle for me. She is a soprano that I have enjoyed both live and on records for some time now, but in 1998 she should still have been in her vocal prime. The tone, though, is unsupported, lacking in body and richness, and often quavery. There are some lovely passages, and it is never unlistenable. But her singing did not bring the pleasure I had anticipated.
This is a case of an enjoyable set that could have been more. The varied level of the singing and the lack of English texts are drawbacks. The wonderful quality of the songs, the interesting arrangements, Pertusi, and the naturally balanced recorded sound are all pluses. The notes are informative to a point, but say nothing about the arrangements at all—and the thinking behind them would have been worth sharing.
FANFARE: Henry Fogel