Notes and Editorial Reviews
A White Rose.
Song in Chaos.
Serenade for Tenor and Orchestra
Steven Mercurio, cond; Sumi Jo (sop);
Andrea Bocelli (ten);
Gino Quilico (bar);
Marcello Giordani (ten);
Ana Maria Martinez (sop);
Rolando Villazón (ten);
SONY 87227 (48:12
Steven Mercurio is an American conductor whose career and reputation have been growing over much of the past decade. While he has specialized in a wide range of operatic repertoire, the symphonic side of his work has been increasing lately as well. What I was not aware of until this disc is his talent for composition.
Mercurio writes in a populist idiom—these are tuneful works written for some of the operatic stars with whom he has worked, and they are designed to have immediate audience appeal. The orchestrations are colorful and skillfully done, mostly meant to be supportive of the voice and the melody line.
It would be easy to look down one’s nose at this material—it makes few demands on the listener, and there is a school of thought that the music being written today should somehow stretch our boundaries, challenge us. But in truth the musical experience is much broader than that, and there is room for music that entertains at a high level. Any listener who enjoys Neapolitan songs or a good collection of operatic arias is going to enjoy Mercurio’s songs—which have memorable tunes and which are perfectly written for the voices singing them here.
One surprise for me here was Andrea Bocelli. He sings with more commitment and with greater variety of color and intensity in Mercurio’s
than in almost anything else I’ve ever heard him do. Another is Gino Quilico’s gorgeously phrased, impassioned performance of
—sung with an intimate sensitivity that communicates genuine tenderness.
The prevailing mood here is that of the bittersweet, a feeling of longing and/or yearning. There is little in this music of triumph, and if one were to complain about anything it might be that lack of variety, as well as the short duration of the disc. But in the end, I found that hearing it from start to finish provided sufficient pleasure to outweigh the similarity of mood.
A word is in order about the
, phenomenally sung by Rolando Villazón. This 21-minute piece is the most extended work, and it is deeply touching, recalling a failed love affair. In it, Mercurio shows an ability to develop and extend material that is less present in the shorter songs—and the result maintains our interest over its considerable length.
All the performances are lovely, the recorded sound is natural and warm, the balances just about perfect, and Mercurio’s own notes are provided along with full texts. The notes are written in the same warm-hearted style as the music—and like the music, they invite the listener in to an intimate, pleasurable world. Those listeners who react positively to Neapolitan songs, or to Canteloube’s setting of
Songs of the Auvergne
, or to some of the Scandinavian ballads of Stenhammar and Alfvén, are likely to find this disc, with its title “Many Voices,” very attractive.
FANFARE: Henry Fogel