The Operatic Fantasies, Vol. 2 – Introduction et Variations sur un thème de Lucia de Lammermoor; Rondò sulla Favorita; Souvenir de l’opéra Linda di Chamounix; Parafrasi sulla Barcarola del Marino Faliero; Rimembranze del Trovatore; Capriccio sur des Airs de Balfe
Adrian Bradbury (cello), Oliver Davies (piano)
Meridian CDE 84659 71:18 mins
The operatic fantasy was one of the principal ways that melodies from operas of the 19th century reached a wider public: Liszt was the prime exponent of the form for piano, but many instrumentalists also created fantasies of their own. Piatti’s name is one that looms large for cellists, both in Italy, where he played in opera orchestras from a young age, and in England, where he lived for many years.
The Introduction and Variations on a Theme from Lucia di Lammermoor takes Edgardo’s final aria from the opera and puts it through its paces, starting with a lyrical presentation of the melody, gradually becoming more virtuosic, with double stops, harmonics and instrumental acrobatics. Adrian Bradbury deals with these with aplomb, although the piano accompaniment is rarely more than harmonic filling-in and, as far as the sound is concerned, I’d prefer the cello to have greater presence, especially in the bass register.
The three other fantasies on Donizetti use multiple arias: in Rondò sulla Favorita and Souvenir de Linda di Chamounix, as well as the less well-known Marino Faliero, the more high-wire passages are not always as secure, although the tonal and rhythmic flexibility that the players bring to both the lyrical and playful aspects of the music is characterful and engaging.
Ultimately though, Piatti’s gestures are limited in scope and, even in the more harmonically sophisticated Verdi of Rimembranze del Trovatore, much is predictable. There’s charm throughout, but this is a disc best taken a track at a time.