Rosenblatt Recitals 2016: Javier Carmarena / Angel Rodriguez

Tenor Javier Carmarena opened the penultimate 2016 Rosenblatt Recital with a powerful flourish from Rossini’s Le compte Ory which at times felt out of balance for the otherwise accommodating Wigmore Hall.

Je crois entendre encore from Bizet’s Pearl Fishers imposed a gratifying mood change and saw Carmarena recalibrate his vocal power for the auditorium. What was resulted was exquisite: the taut fragility of his top register and the showman-like dynamic range he deployed, made the lyricism take on an almost miraculous quality in places.

In Donizetti’s Tombe degli avi miei…Fra poco a me ricoverò Camarena’s voice had settled and opened out – fortissimos now suited the interior perfectly, and he succeeded in crafting a plaintive quality with a most remarkable whisper-like articulation on the word ‘morte’.

Similarly, Ed ancor la tremenda porta and Ah! mes amis! Quel jour de fête! saw Camarena steer us through another change of mood with remarkable poise and a gratifying lack of pretension.

The second half took on a darker mood, with Tosti’s Quattro canzoni d’Amaranta altogether more reflective and in places mournful. In the third canzona, In van preghi, in vano aneli, the tenor demonstrated his ability to draw the audience in and leave us hanging with an amazing dynamic range: we weren’t left stranded; only dangled over a precipice, safe in the knowledge that we would, eventually, be pulled back. That is quite some achievement.

The remaining Mexican songs by Lara awere, for me, a bigger gear-shift. These felt more like encore material. In places, the Lara seemed rather polite, almost too western, lacking a much-needed authenticity in order to help the musical transition. Moral’s Besos robados and No niegues que me quisiste were, compared to the Lara, less light in musical style which helped round-off the programme.

Rosenblatt Recitals are consistently uplifting affairs; the audience sees to that. Effortless performers make reviews an uphill struggle. Thursday night’s shimmering applause for Javier Carmarena was undoubtedly well-deserved for an amazing treat. Sometimes, that’s all that needs to be said.



Gianluca Barutto and James Baillieu

Rosenblatt Recitals 2016: Gianluca Buratto / James Baillieu

Blogging can sometimes be at odds with one of the fundamental pleasures of classical music. Our rush to capture a moment experienced can sometimes deny us the optimum time to reflect on it.

So it is with Gianluca Buratto’s Rosenblatt Recital last night; that’s why I’ve taken nearly 24 hours before I written about it.

Barutta is an undoubted craftsman, elements of which were seen at the beginning of his recital with pianist James Baillieu. In Monteverdi’s La morte di Seneca from the composer’s last opera L’incoronazione di Poppea Buratto used the depth of his considerable voice to spellbinding effect, attending to the ends of phrases with stunning precision. The awareness both he and Baillieu also paid to the silences in Monteverdi’s scoring was incredible. For a voice which is inherently heavy, Buratto demonstrated an amazing lightness which was at times – contrary to the meaning of the text – strangely seductive.

There were moments during Handel’s Sorge infausta una procella (and to a lesser extent Vivaldi’s Se il cor guerriero)  when I wondered Barutta felt slightly less at ease with proceedings. Did the scales need more clarity? Was his voice not well-suited to Handel’s music? Or had we just been spoilt by the precision demanded by Monteverdi’s music?

Gianluca undoubtedly returned to form in a playful Madamina, il catalogo e questo from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. An ingenious and resourceful rendition (using the score he was singing from as a prop) which added to the comedy. In this and the rest of the second half we saw a different performer. Not better or worse, just evidence of considerable talent.

After a powerful Slander is a little breeze from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in which Gianluca’s voice seemed to make the Wigmore Hall itself vibrate harmonics,  Cinta di fiori from Bellini’s The Puritans once again showed his unfailing control when singing pianissimo.

Gianluca Buratto’s Rosenblatt Recital with James Baillieu was an enthralling one, one which I would have loved to have been longer.  Oh, and Gianluca’s falsetto is a thing to behold.


Rosenblatt Recitals 2015: Quinn Kelsey / Llyr Williams

The Rosenblatt Recitals continue to go from strength to strength. Last night’s Wigmore Hall recital saw the formidable partnership of Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey and Welsh pianist Llyr Williams perform a mixed programme of English, French, American and Russian music. 

Kelsey was, as you’d expect a singer of his calibre, enthralling. In both Tchaikovsky’s Ya vas lyublya and Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Sing, the baritone displayed effortless precision and a captivating suppleness that created an spellbinding intimacy. Massenet’s Vision fugitive was enthusiastically received but felt unexpected and perhaps even out of place. Ravel’s Don Quixote to Dulcinea, a work which clearly played to Kelsey’s strengths.

The Mussorgsky – Songs and Dances of Death – was a suitably challenging conclusion to the baritone’s triumphant programme. The concluding song – The Field Marshal – had a defiance and humility which seemed apt given it was Remembrance Day.

This was an electrifying evening, one I was very pleased to be made to feel a part of. Very good as well to see the microphones were out. Expect a CD of the recital in the coming months.

Rosenblatt Recitals 2015: Saimir Pirgu / Simon Lepper

Early on in Albanian lyric tenor Saimir Pirgu’s recital at Wigmore Hall last night (that’s twice to the Wigmore in one day – a record for me), there was a moment when I felt a bit sorry for him. What must it be like for a performer to step out on to a stage in front of a packed auditorium like last night and know there are smart arses like me near to the back row writing notes? That thought alone would be enough to keep me backstage, assuming I had any aspirations to perform.

This is not a lengthy introduction to a review intended to damn with faint praise. Pirgu has a captivating presence and verve about him which fills the room and whips up the crowd. Verdi is clearly where he feels at home. He shone in Questa o quella from Rigoletto and Ah, la paterno mano from Macbeth in which Saimir clearly felt most at home. Something transformative happened in Ah! leve-toi soleil from Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, making the lyric “But, what sudden light shines through yonder window?” all the more poignant.

Violinst Alda Dizdari joined Pirgu on stage with accompanist Simon Lepper in The words of the candle written the violinst’s father in 1979 for the first in a selection of Albanian songs that were always bound to whip up the diaspora audience into a deserving frenzy. Roars of appreciation followed Dizdari’s song and another anonymous Albanian song, before the programmed evening concluded with Francesco Cilea’s E la solita storia del pastore.

Saimir Pirgu appears at the Royal Opera on Saturday 16 May at 7pm in a production of Szymanowski’s King Roger.

The picture in this post was taken from @RosenblattOpera‘s Twitter feed and features Saimir and pianist Simon Lepper in rehearsal earlier yesterday afternoon. 

The next Rosenblatt Recital is on 4 March and features baritone Simone Piazzola.

Rosenblatt Recitals: Rosa Feola / Iain Burnside

Some concerts you needn’t bother securing any programme notes for. This could be because you know all the repertoire so well you don’t need anything to guide you through proceedings. Or, like this much-anticipated Rosenblatt Recital, the performance is so enthralling that the programme notes are a distraction.

Rosa Feola is divine. An exquisite voice complimented by a tantalising mix of vulnerability and formidable power.

Everything appeared effortless for Rosa. I thoroughly enjoyed what she and accompanist Iain Burnside offered up.

More please, Mr Rosenblatt.