L'alba Separa Dalla Luce l'Ombra
This live Wigmore programme by the indefinable Anna Caterina Antonacci explores unusual territory, focusing on the Italian art song of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Admittedly the Venezuelan-born, naturalised French Reynaldo Hahn is an odd man out, but the five extracts from his cycle Venezia actually set Venetian dialect. Also extraneous – at least from a strictly historical point of view – is the Baroque master Antonio Cesti, though one of his arias (from Orontea) is presented in a late 19th-century arrangement by Alessandro Parisotti known to generations of singing students from one of his arie antiche volumes.
Antonacci and her scrupulous accompanist, Donald Sulzen, provide alert and imaginative accounts of all their material. She is both expressive and playful in Hahn’s songs of love and individual lovers, and reveals the emotional depths in a group of D’Annunzio settings by Francesco Paolo Tosti, often (wrongly) written off as a creator of drawing-room fodder. Bigger in scale are Respighi’s Sopra un’aria antica (again D’Annunzio), which place a modern recitative-like line over a neo-classical accompaniment, and the three Cilea songs, which include the harmonically exploratory ‘Nel ridestarmi’. Antonacci brings individuality to everything she sings, her colouristic range reinforcing her careful definition of text.