Paolo Fresu's Songlines/Night & Blue is a beautiful performance by a musician who does not feel compelled to prove himself with pyrotechnics. Instead, on this two-disc set, the Italian trumpeter prefers speaking his piece with lush melodies and a rich full horn sound, supported by an exceptional quartet. Being an Italian album, it seems appropriate to use a few musical terms. The entire affair, around 140 minutes in length, is taken sostenuto (smoothly), with a pace that slides between adagio (slowly) and andante (walking), but never goes much faster than that. But this down-tempo consistency should not be confused with sloth. Everything here is tightly played, with some real intensity from the musicians; it's just not going to wake the neighbors with frenetic thunder.
Richard Wagner's reputation rests on his tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen, and the other music dramas he created, including Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Parsifal, which revolutionized all aspects of late Romantic music and left their mark on modern music as well. Yet there is a small body of non-operatic works that shows a more relaxed Wagner working on a much smaller scale: his Siegfried Idyll for chamber orchestra, a group of songs, and a collection of pieces for piano. This double CD by Pier Paolo Vincenzi presents Wagner's complete piano music with three sonatas, a large-scale fantasia, and eleven short pieces that show the composer's attempts at finding a more personal and intimate voice.
The Marriage of Figaro, as this elegant 1994 production brilliantly reminds us, was a French bedroom comedy before it became a Mozart opera. It is a classic of French literature, and it is still enjoyable as a spoken play after more than two centuries of existence. Its literary quality gives this production a special flavor. The music–some of Mozart's finest–is beautifully presented by a carefully chosen international cast (including Giovanni Furlanetto, Elzbieta Szymtka, Janice Watson, and Ludovic Tezier), but what sets this production apart is its theatrical flavor, cultivated by a director who is an expert on classic French theater. The standards of spoken theater are upheld in timing, body language, the inflection of punch lines. These qualities are more important here than in most operas; style is both crucial and elusive. Fortunately, the Opera de Lyon, one of most imaginative companies in Europe, shows an impressive sense of style. (Joe McLellan)
For the first time under the direction of a foreigner, Paolo Damiani, the French orchestra explores themes related to the Mediterranean area. With the help of special guests Anouar Brahem and Gianluigi Trovesi, the Italian musical director offers musical landscapes that encompass the various aspects of the region. The album opens with a suite penned by Trovesi, which digs deep into the Italian musical tradition, but also incorporates more recent influences from the Middle East and Africa. With the brass instruments in the forefront, it is definitely the most colorful and animated segment of the disc.