Goldschmidt: Beatrice Cenci; Four Songs

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COMPOSERS: Goldschmidt
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Beatrice Cenci; Four Songs
PERFORMER: Iris Vermillion (soprano)Berthold Goldschmidt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: S2K 66836 DDD
This new Sony release proves a worthy successor to Decca’s acclaimed recording of Goldschmidt’s first opera, Die gewaltige Hahnrei. Beatrice Cenci, based on Shelley’s drama about the gruesome end of the Cenci family in 16th-century Rome, provides ample material for Goldschmidt’s gifts, and the English text is idiomatically set; musically, it has a style of its own, but most often brings to mind Busoni. The dramatic weight is placed on Count Cenci’s parricidal daughter and wife’s plight, condemned to a death that Cenci himself was able to buy his way out of time and again for his own crimes.

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The cast is a strong one, dominated by the burnished tone of Roberta Alexander in the title role of the abused daughter. Della Jones as her stepmother Lucrezia is equally fine and there are excellent contributions from Fiona Kimm as her young brother Bernardo and Peter Rose as Cardinal Camillo; there is also a beautifully sung cameo from Ian Bostridge as a court singer. The only disappointment is Simon Estes as the Count. His monotonous, congested tone and intermittent American accent undermine his supposedly menacing character.

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Lothar Zagrosek, an experienced hand in reviving mid-century operas, brings out all the voluptuousness of the orchestral writing. Finally, Iris Vermillion and the composer himself provide a captivating filler in four of his songs. Matthew Rye