Joyce & Tony Live at the Wigmore Hall

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Arlen,Berlin,Bolcom,Curtis,Dougherty,Foster,Haydn,Kern,Moross,Nelson,Rodgers,Rossini,Santoliquido,Villa-Lobos
LABELS: Erato
ALBUM TITLE: Joyce & Tony Live at the Wigmore Hall
WORKS: Haydn: Arianna a Naxos; plus songs by Rossini, Moross, Santoliquido, Curtis, Kern, Berlin, Foster, Nelson, Dougherty, Bolcom, Villa-Lobos, Rodgers and Arlen
PERFORMER: Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano), Antonio Pappano (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 2564610789

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This is a live recording of the opening event of the Wigmore Hall’s 2014-15 season, the informality of the disc’s title reflecting what was a lighter programme than one might expect on such an occasion. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong, of course, with the unusually lightweight programme – both of these artists know how to deliver popular material with skill and grace – but even so one might feel that the encores begin somewhat early.

Following the substantial Haydn cantata Arianna a Naxos – in which Joyce DiDonato’s interpretative imagination matches Tony Pappano’s thoughtful and expressive pianistic approach – there are a couple of attractive Rossini items, followed by the song cycle I canti della sera by the forgotten Francesco Santoliquido, which is essentially upmarket salon music. Then we’re on to another popular encore – De Curtis’s ‘Non ti scordar di me!’ – and we’re still only on Disc 1.

Pretty well all of Disc 2 consists of songs from the American popular tradition, and it is here, surprisingly, that DiDonato’s tone sounds stretched, notably in Jerome Kern’s ‘Can’t help lovin’ that man’ and ‘All the things you are’. Pappano, meanwhile, takes everything in his stride, throwing a few witty pianistic interjections into Irving Berlin’s ‘I Love a Piano’ and generally enjoying himself to entertaining effect.

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Of the other items, I find David Krane’s arrangement of Stephen Foster’s ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ a bit over-sophisticated, but like everything else here DiDonato knows how to put it over, and Pappano provides her with absolutely convincing back-up. George Hall