Ben Heppner

Ideale: Songs of Paolo Tosti

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Although they were on every singer's lips during the first years of the twentieth century, most of Paolo Tosti's songs have since fallen by the wayside. Only a handful of greatest hits, like "A vucchella" and "Ideale," have had much sustained popularity. But Tosti was a masterful composer for the voice (he was singing teacher to members of both the Italian and British royal families), and his more than 200 songs combine the heart-on-sleeves emotionalism of Neapolitan canzoni with the elegant melodic style of the late nineteenth century salon; they deserve wider exposure. They have found an unusual champion in Ben Heppner, the Canadian tenor best known for tackling Wagner's Tristan, and other heavyweight operatic roles. Heppner is himself due for resurgence, having cut back on his appearances and recording since 2001, and here he brings a major-league voice and an obvious affection for Tosti's songs together to make an appealing and enjoyable, if somewhat inconsistent, recital. There is a lot to like about this album: the more dramatic songs benefit from Heppner's full-bodied sound and straightforward approach, as well as the skillful instrumental arrangements by Steven Mercurio and Michael Rot, here played by members of the London Symphony Orchestra. It would be hard to ask for better than "In the hush of the night," one of Tosti's many English songs, or "Chitarreta abruzzese," which ends with a thrilling high B. But the more intimate selections sometimes slip into rhythmic flaccidity and shaky vocal production. The opening "Ideale" is a big disappointment for exactly those reasons. Overall, though, the pleasures of this album far outweigh its shortcomings.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
4:05
2
2:20
3
2:47
Quatro canzoni d'Amaranta, song cycle for voice & piano
4
6:00
5
5:22
Quatro canzoni d'Amaranta, song cycle for voice & piano
6
2:43
7
2:35
8
3:20
9
2:48
10
3:21
11
3:27
12
1:30
13
1:53
14
2:42
Altre pagine d'album, vignette for voice & piano/orchestra
15
2:33
16
3:06
Canzoni d'Amaranta (4) for voice & piano, No. 3, "In van preghi"
17
2:43
18
5:00
19
4:19
blue highlight denotes track pick