Respighi: Deità silvane; Nebbie; Aretusa; La sensitiva

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COMPOSERS: Respighi
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Deità silvane; Nebbie; Aretusa; La sensitiva
PERFORMER: Ingrid Attrot (soprano), Linda Finnie (mezzo-soprano); BBC Philharmonic/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9453 DDD
The crusade to rescue Respighi from his reputation as a master of pastiche without any real musical personality has occasionally seemed rather desperate. The concertos, for instance, released by Chandos earlier in this series, were intriguing but sufficiently lacklustre to justify their abandonment by posterity. But this collection of vocal music is a triumphant vindication for the champions of this extraordinary composer. From the tragic and popular miniature, Nebbie, to the vigorous Deità silvane cycle, this is writing of imperturbable conviction and authority. The music moves from austerity to opulence, from light-footed scampering to tragic peroration, with an operatic sense of destiny, particularly in La sensitiva and Aretusa (both settings of Shelley), where the lavish timescale allows a myriad shadows and gestures to flicker across the huge expanse of music.

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Two singers contribute. The soprano Ingrid Attrot has only Deità silvane, which she executes briskly and elegantly. The rest falls to the stalwart mezzo Linda Finnie, whose dramatic confidence gives these songs true operatic stature. Not the most delicate of singers, her voice occasionally hardens in moments of passion and the charm vanishes. But this is a small flaw in some otherwise brilliant gems. Christopher Lambton