Britten • Liszt

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Britten,Liszt
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Britten • Liszt
WORKS: Works by Britten & Liszt
PERFORMER: Francesco Meli (tenor); Matteo Pais (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: OA CD 9019 D

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Even now, just past Britten’s centenary year, it’s hard to think of his Michelangelo Sonnets without the benchmark sound of Peter Pears’s singing in mind – to say nothing of countless English tenors who have performed the cycle since. So Italian tenor Francesco Meli’s interpretation is both intriguing and illuminating, offering a strong contrast to Pears’s levitating refinement.

Meli’s voice is as true an example of the Italian lyric-operatic style as you’ll find – beautifully produced, ardent but by no means hectoring, and with attractive soft-colour options to balance up the firepower. The whole work here sounds much more openly demonstrative than usual (as in the final ‘Spirito ben nato’), while also thoughtfully alert to the music’s strand of private inner lyricism

Next comes a selection of songs (Rossini, Tosti) and opera arias (Massenet, Gounod, Verdi, Donizetti) – the latter sung pretty lustily, which is fair enough, although heard straight through the total effect of this part of the programme is bound to be as unvarying as it turns out.

Meli closes with Liszt’s Three Petrarch Sonnets, responding impressively to their direct evocation of opera (he sports a fine top D flat). He is superbly supported here by Matteo Pais, a fine accompanist throughout.

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Malcolm Hayes