Sunday Classics preview: A decidedly unorthodox musical tribute (if you can call it that) to Italy
Tonight's music doesn't plug directly into the musical lovefest with Italy we've been celebrating the last couple of weeks with Tchaikovsky's Capriccio italien and string sextet Souvenir de Florence and Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony. Eventually I think you'll see how it all hooks up, but for tonight you may have to take it on faith.
The Italian Singer conjured here by our emphatically non-Italian lyricist and composer isn't exactly what you'd call a homage, but is at least meant to be, well, sort of Italian. The aria our team created for their tenor is by no means easy to sing. Without getting fancy about it, I've simply plucked out three very famous tenors who happen to have recorded it (plus another from a famous recording), and none of them has an easy time with it. Indeed I've alway suspected that one of them still wishes he could have had another crack at it, or perhaps he doesn't think it would have helped.
Given the degree of difficulty, it's always an intriguing question as to how well our composer expected it to be sung. At least when well sung, though, it's such a ravishing piece that with almost any other composer it would seem all but inconceivable that it didn't aim deliberately at being one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. With this particular composer, however, there are a number of instances of startling beauty that doesn't seem to fit the general understanding of the situations for which it was written. My feeling is that the deficiency lies in the general understanding of the situations and not the composer's calibration of musical appropriateness, but as I say, it's a legitimate question.
Right now we're going to hear just the aria itself, and for these cuts I've left myself at the mercy of the CD track editors, and have therefore arranged the performances in the order of how much of the orchestral lead-in is included in the aria track -- [A] includes hardly any, [C] and [D] the whole thing. Of course all the music is included in all the recordings; I'm speaking only of where the track point occurs.
In the click-through, where we're going to hear the whole little scene for which this aria was created, I've made sure that we hear the fulll orchestral lead-in all three times.
HERE'S A QUESTION AS YOU LISTEN
Since this is supposed to be an Italian tenor, can you tell which if any of our four tenors is/are in fact Italian?
TO HEAR THE WHOLE SCENELET THAT INCLUDES
OUR ARIA, BY THE SAME PERFORMERS, CLICK HERE
Labels: Sunday Classics