Mercadante: Les soirées italiennes

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COMPOSERS: Mercadante
LABELS: Opera Rara Il Salotto
WORKS: Les soirées italiennes
PERFORMER: Nelly Miricioiu, Yvonne Kenny (soprano), William Matteuzzi, Bruce Ford, Garry Magee (tenor), Alastair Miles (bass), David Harper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ORR 206
In his time he was a highly regarded rival to Donizetti and Bellini, but outside specialist circles Saverio Mercadante’s work is little known today. Rossini commissioned his I briganti (1836) for Paris, and perhaps as a thank-offering the younger musician penned a collection of songs and duets that emulates his fellow countryman’s Soirées musicales, both composers even using the same writer – Carlo Pepoli – for the bulk of their respective sets.

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There’s a similarity of approach too: Rossini and Mercadante clearly sought primarily to entertain (as befits music essentially for the salon) but also provided nuances of harmony and other inventive touches that were doubtless relished by the connoisseur.

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Opera Rara’s team of singers sound as if they’re enjoying themselves, with Bruce Ford revealing a strong sense of dramatic engagement in the ‘Lament of the Dying Man’ and floating a lovely line in ‘The Prayer’, one of a group of Mercadante’s songs added to complete the disc. Notable contributions too from Yvonne Kenny, proffering delicacy and musicality in ‘Spring’, and partnering Nelly Miricioiu in the witty ‘Fishing’. All the singers are well matched to their material, and David Harper accompanies with perception and style. Clear and resonant sound. George Hall