Vivaldi • Verdi • Fauré • Puccini • Respighi • Turina

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COMPOSERS: Faure; Puccini; Respighi; Turina; Verdi; Vivaldi
LABELS: Ensayo
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Ainhoa Arteta
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Ainhoa Arteta (soprano), Alejandro Zabala (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ENY-CD-9810 (distr. Discovery)

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This is quite a find. The Basque soprano Ainhoa Arteta, a current best-seller in Spain, presents a visiting card of her musical interests outside opera – and they range, deliciously, from Vivaldi to French mélodie, and from Puccini to Basque folksong. The programming is irresistible; the voice is a luminous lyric soprano with burnished mezzo undertones; and the painstaking engineering reveals the supple, sentient balance between her singing and the piano-playing of Alejandro Zabala. The first half of the recital is non-Hispanic. Arteta brings a real sense of fickle allegría to Verdi’s ‘Stornello’, reveals the guileless intimacy of Puccini’s Butterfly-winged ‘Sole e amore’ and moulds the phrases of Fauré’s ‘Automne’ and ‘Notre amour’ like fine wet clay. The real fun starts, though, with Arne Dørumsgaard’s arrangement of ‘Pámpano verde’ (‘Green vine’), by the 15th-century Spanish composer Francisco de la Torre. So beguiling is Arteta’s melismatic singing here and in the Sephardic ‘Noches, noches’ that one only longs to hear them sung unaccompanied and raw. Montsalvatge’s much-loved ‘Piccaninny’s Lullaby’ and Turina’s cycle Poema en forma de canciones, are preceded by two of Jesús Guridi’s Canciones del folklore vasco – grief-stricken Basque lovesongs as distinctive in their melodic contours as their green native hills.

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Hilary Finch