Songs: Deita silvane; Sei Liriche; Nebbie; La statua etc
Ian Bostridge (tenor), Saskia Giorgini (piano)
Pentatone PTC 5186 872 67:34 mins
Till now, the reference point for Respighi’s underappreciated songs has been Channel Classics’s three-disc survey, using three different singers. Ian Bostridge’s single-disc selection is in theory welcome, but comparisons throw up difficulties for the buyer.
In the mini-cycle Deità Silvane which opens Bostridge’s recital, Channel’s tenor Leonardo De Lisi is less interventionist as an interpreter, conjuring more of the fanciful woodland atmosphere with lighter, less consciously shaped diction. Bostridge micro-manages more, and his habit of swelling vowels sounds fussy next to De Lisi’s more poised approach.
Comparisons aside, perhaps the bigger message of this recording is how rewarding Respighi’s songs are to listen to. A selection from the two sets of Sei Liriche yields the sensual ‘O falce di luna’ and seductively rippling ‘Au milieu du jardin’, where both Bostridge and pianist Saskia Giorgini are at their sensitive best.
The pair capture the sombre drama of ‘Nebbie’ without over-pressing, and bring a pleasing cheeriness to ‘Bella porta di rubini’ from the Canti all’antica. The Quattro arie scozzesi reflect Respighi’s interest in folk music, and contain his affectionate settings of ‘When the kye come hame’ and ‘The Piper of Dundee’. Bostridge’s hyperactive word-painting will strike some as intelligent, others as mildly irksome. The recital ends with the Abruzzi folksong ‘Le funtanelle’, imbued by Bostridge and Giorgini with the ‘merriment and joyful nonsense’ mentioned in the booklet essay.
Established followers of Bostridge will buy this album anyway. Others should sample Channel Classics’s rival interpretations before committing.