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Briefly Noted: Respighi Songs

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Crepuscolo (Ottorino Respighi, Songs), Timothy Fallon, Ammiel Bushakevitz

(released on June 3, 2022)
BIS 2632 | 74'04"
American tenor Timothy Fallon won the Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition in 2013, paired with pianist Ammiel Bushakevitz. The duo released an album of Liszt songs together in 2017, which they have followed up with this diverting recital of rarely heard songs by Ottorino Respighi, both on the BIS label. This music, while certainly not unknown, is unfamiliar enough that listening to it was a delight. The performances are excellent as well, captured a year ago in a Munich studio.

Fallon's tenor has all the necessary qualities for this repertory - a floating lyrical quality (heard in "Nel giardino"), some heft on the top notes (as in the storm-tossed "In alto mare"), and a musical way with the text and expression of these often surprising songs. The album title, "Crepuscolo," comes from the last song of the opening set, Deità silvane (Woodland deities - sonnets by Antonio Rubino), where Bushakevitz's lively touch at the keyboard provides the caprine gambols of the titular "Fauni" in the first song and the sweetly clanging cymbals and flute in "Music in the Garden." Hints of Debussy and symbolism.

The selections range wide, beginning with three songs by the teenage Respighi, full of echoes of Verdi and Puccini. Respighi reveled in historical retrospection, featured by Gianandrea Noseda in his programming of the composer with the National Symphony Orchestra during his tenure. This program includes the five Canti all'antica, P. 71, with medieval poetry (by Giovanni Boccaccio, Andrea Falconieri, and Enzo of Sardinia) infused with aching suspensions, and for folk music flavor, the four Arie scozzesi, P. 143, Scots-English verse filtered through Italian romanticism. Fallon opts for a more English-leaning pronunciation of Robert Burns's My Heart's in the Highlands, which works with Respighi's charming melody.

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