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Respighi: Songs

Respighi: Songs

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After their acclaimed recording of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin, Ian Bostridge and Saskia Giorgini present a program of rarely-recorded songs by Ottorino Respighi. This selection of songs demonstrates Respighi’s stylistic versatility and broad literary inspiration, from settings of Ada Negri’s compact verses to florid, Symbolist d’Annunzio poems as well as folk melodies, including Scottish songs. Respighi’s Liriche unveil a fascinating, little-known Italian branch of musical Impressionism. What binds them together is a longing for a past still so close, but at the same time inevitably gone. Ian Bostridge is one of the most celebrated tenors and lied interpreters of his generation. His PENTATONE recording of Schubert’s Winterreise (2019) was crowned with the ICMA Vocal Music Award 2020. He continues his congenial collaboration with pianist Saskia Giorgini on PENTATONE.


How does the hackneyed phrase go, “Don’t yuck my yum”? So if you are into the somewhat terse, easy-listening-averse ways of Ottorino Respighi’s art songs, or simply want to discover the composer at the opposite end from the lush bombast of Pini di Roma, by all means, the Ian Bostridge recording (with Saskia Giorgini as accompanist) on Pentatone is a find: Rare morsels, carefully selected, very artfully and meticulously done, with perhaps just a hair too much of studied artistry, on the label where major-label artists go to record what’s dear to their hearts after they’ve run out of Schubert.

Bostridge is ever free of bluster but also does not appear to be as prone to hyper-enunciating as he sometimes does in German, or pecking at select phrases like a hen with an appetite. There’s a bit of 20th-century French mélodie in several of Respighi’s songs, not limited to the three included here that are set to French poetry: In the pointillism of “Egle” for example, or in the lulling lyricism of “Crepuscolo” (both part of Deità silvane). The brittle fragility of Quattro Liriche’s “La naiade” is impressive; the selections “O falce di luna” and “Notte” from Sei Liriche P90 and P97, respectively, listened to with relaxed care and giving them some time, begin to blossom like a budding flower cut and placed in a glass on the window sill.

The four Scottish songs are neat, especially for anyone who cares about the Haydn (or the lesser Beethoven) versions of these, and how they are similar (or different) in flavor and interpretation–although Bostridge really goes for the Scottish like the Alexander Brother Highland Lads with a touch of Groundskeeper Willie (from The Simpsons). A niche recommendation of the first order.

-- (Jens F. Laurson)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Pentatone Music
    • UPC/Barcode: 827949087264
    • Item Number: PTC5186872