WORKS: Cantata in onore del Sommo Pontefice Pio IX; La morte di Didone
PERFORMER: Mariella Devia (soprano), Paul Austin Kelly, Francesco Piccoli (tenor), Michele Pertusi (bass)La Scala PO & Chorus/Riccardo Chailly
CATALOGUE NO: 458 843-2
This is the first in what is to be a complete survey of Rossini’s cantatas. La morte di Didone was written as early as 1811, the year after he abandoned his studies in Bologna, and was commissioned for the soprano Ester Mombelli. The original autograph does not survive and the present edition has been prepared by Paolo Rossini from the five manuscript copies that do. The Cantata in onore del Sommo Pontefice Pio IX was written, or one might almost say ‘assembled and transcribed’, for the election of Pius IX (of whom there were high hopes – soon to be dashed) and first performed on New Year’s Day, 1847. With his usual skill Rossini recycled and adapted material from early operas that had by then fallen out of the repertoire, including Ermione, Armide and Ricciardo e Zoraide.
To all this Chailly brings characteristic lightness of touch and sensitivity. In La morte di Didone, Mariella Devia sings with fervour (she is more forwardly balanced than are the soloists in the longer, later cantata) but they all acquit themselves, as does the Scala chorus. The sound is clear and well-focused, albeit not quite in the demonstration bracket (the acoustics are a touch dry), and there is good balance between soloists and orchestra. Robert Layton