Cherry Ripe

Olivier Mabille (English trans.)
Res Musica (France)

‘The good taste of cherries’

For their second recital on Melba, Deborah Riedel and Richard Bonynge have selected a varied assortment of rarities from the 18th and 19th centuries. In fact from the 19th century they don’t venture beyond 1804, while the earliest of the pieces dates from 1743. One encounters predominantly English, German and Italian composers in the program, without forgetting Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian and French composers, too. The genres covered are equally diverse: airs from ballad operas, arias from Italian opera-bouffa and opera seria, airs from opéra-comique, but also cantatas, extracts from serenades and finally a single representative from sacred music, the extremely beautiful ‘Ingemisco’ from the Requiem by Mayr. Although the notes do not say so, one can be sure that at least half of the pieces receive their premiere recordings here. The others are already known from recitals (Janet Baker, Joan Sutherland, Robert Tear, Sophie Karthaüser) or from complete recordings of the operas (Una Cosa rara by Martin y Soler, Giannina et Bernardone by Cimarosa).

The project is underpinned with a genuine stylistic unity, covering the period from the immediate successors of Handel (Arne and Boyce) right up to Zingarelli and Mayr, who were the teachers respectively of Bellini and Donizetti. Ultimately, one hears less the evolution from the galant style towards a romantic sensibility, than the full flowering of classical European style, of which one admires the harmonic and ingenious gracefulness …

The presentation—with images relating to the repertoire—is utterly charming and elegant. Without clarification in the booklet, I imagine that the instruments played are those of the era; the sound of the orchestra, enhanced with a discrete harpsichord is, in any case, very pleasing and fine. Richard Bonynge, with perfect elegance, brings to life the subtleties of the dance rhythms that accompany the vocal line. Deborah Riedel … seduces with her natural sound and fairly sombre timbre that allows her to sing music for contralto or castrato. Her embellishments are tastefully restrained … and her pronunciation is excellent. Beyond its musicological interest, this agreeable disc is worthy as a souvenir of the soprano who died in January at the age of 50.