Rossini: Cats’ Duet; L’orgia

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COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Cats’ Duet; L’orgia
PERFORMER: Rockwell Blake (tenor), Gérard Lesne (alto), Antonio Pappano (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55614 2
Rossini composed songs throughout his life, increasingly so after he abandoned the composition of opera. Several of the 27 songs on this disc date from his late years in Paris, when he regularly wrote pieces to be performed at his Saturday evening soirées, and eight are different settings of a text – ‘Mi lagnerò tacendo’ – to which he kept returning. An elegant melancholy pervades some of them, and ebullient high spirits are to the fore in others – ‘L’orgia’ (The Orgy), for example. A few, such as ‘La danza’, are highly familiar.

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The American tenor Rockwell Blake, a regular performer at the Rossini Festival at Pesaro, is blessed with a voice of remarkable range and flexibility, though its timbre is not especially appealing. He dispatches these songs efficiently, but his sustained high notes are inclined to be wobbly. He is joined in the ‘Cats’ Duet’ by Gérard Lesne, an alto. However, this amusing duet, long attributed to Rossini, is actually by Christoph Ernst Friedrich Weyse, a Danish contemporary of the composer. Charles Osborne