Tuesday 17 September 2013

Celso Albelo at Rosenblatt Recitals

Celso Albelo © Joan Tomas / FidelioArtist.
Celso Albelo
© Joan Tomas / FidelioArtist.
Rosenblatt Recitals opened their new season at the Wigmore Hall with a recital by the Celso Albelo on Monday 17 September 2013. Accompanied by pianist Juan Francisco Parra, the young Spanish tenor's recital mixed songs by Spanish and South American composers with operatic arias. The first half consisted of a fascinating selection of songs by Joaquin Turina, Carols Guastavino, Alberto Ginastera and Augusto Brandt. Then after a pair of zarzuela arias by Manuel Penella and Amadeo Vives, we had operatic arias by Donizetti and Verdi.

Albelo's repertoire in the opera house is firmly centred on 19th century opera, from Rossini's Guillaume Tell, through Donizetti's Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor) to the Duke in Verdi's Rigoletto. (We have seen him in La Sonnambula at Covent Garden, and La Favorite at the Theatre des Champs Elysees) He has an interesting lyric tenor voice, very characterful with strong spinto hints. He has a nice firm middle and lower register, with an enviable consistency throughout the range. It is rather a high tension voice and his upper notes, when sung full chest, were spectacular in their power, but he also had an enviable way of shading into head voice. One of the delights of the recital was the fact that we weren't shouted at all evening, and that his capacity for real power which only became apparent as the evening developed.

Albelo and Parra opened with the Poema en forma de canciones (Poem in the form of songs) by Joaquin Turina (1882 - 1949), four songs setting poems by Ramon Maria de las Mercedes de Campoamor Y Campoosorio dating from 1923.  After the anticipatory Dedicatoria for piano solo, Nunca olvida (Never forget) started with a lovely shimmering piano accompaniment to the rather bleak vocal line. Albelo sang from memory and clearly projected the piece's strong but controlled emotions. Cantares (Songs) was rather more dramatic, opening and closing with rather flamenco like cries, and reaching an impassioned climax. All the songs in the cycle were about some sort of lost love, but Turina varied the styles of each one. Los dos miedos (The two fears) had a highly impassioned piano part between the verses, but the vocal line was rather austerely melancholic with a wistful lift at the end. Finally Las locas por amor (Frantic for love) a lively joyous piece, with Albelo in brilliant voice giving a good, full throated top note at the end.

Next came a group of songs by Latin American composers. Carlos Guastavino (1912 - 2000) and Alberto Ginaster (1916 - 1983) were both familiar to me, but Augusto Brandt (1892 - 1942) was new.

Guastavino's three songs, all rather austerely melancholic with the singer displaying controlled passion and subtlety rather than showmanship. Dating from the late 1960's the songs come from two of Guastavino's collections of traditional songs, Doce canciones populares and Canciones Coloniales. 

Pampamapa (Song of the trail) was a lyrical and wistful hymn to the travelling life, though after a promising start the song never seem to quite take off. Ya me voy a retirar (I'm going away) was another tale of lost love, rather understated but Albelo put the song over well and gradually developed intensity. El sampedrino (The herdsman) was elegantly melancholic, and another song of lost love! The melodic interest was somewhat limited, but Albelo invested the work with great charm

Alberto Ginastera's Cancion del arbol del olvido (Song of the tree of forgetting) from 1938, was a simple but rather haunting tale, with a poetic twist at the end.

Both the Ginastera and the Guastavino songs had something rather austere in the restraint, but Besos en mis suenos (Kisses in my dreams) by the Venezualan composer Augusto Brandt could not have been more different. This was a far more sentimental ballad, again dreaming of lost love, given a thrilling and charming performance by Albelo and Parra.

They opened the second half with Deten tu lado paso (Don't take another step) from the zarzuela Don Gil de Alcala by Manuel Penella (1880 - 1939), which premiered in Barcelona in 1932. A romantic piece, with hints of Lehar in the music, Albelo sang with vibrant passion and pushing the music towards opera. His performance was rather thrilling, especially as he opened up the top of his voice towards the end.

The second piece was also from a zarzuela, Por el hume se saba (By smoke we know) from Dona Francisquita by Amadeo Vives (1871 - 1932) which premiered in Madrid in 1923. Again, we had Lehar with a Spanish acced, but this time all swagger, vividness and passion. But Albelo brought subtlety to the music as well, shaping phrases nicely and shading his voice top towards the top.

Parra followed with a piano solo full of rhythmic interest and melodic charm, Danza de los Nanigos (Dance of the Negros) by the Cuban composer Ernest Lecuona (895 - 1963).

Albelo returned with three operatic arias by Donizetti. Una furtiva lagrima from L'elisir d'amore opened with Albelo singing with lovely honeyed tone though with a sense of steel underneath. Beautifully phrased, with a lovely sense of charm and some nicely hushed tone, Albelo did not try to make to much of the aria, which only charmed us even more.

Tome degli'avi miei...Fra poco a me ricovero (Tombs of my ancestors) is Edgardo's act three solo from Lucia di Lammermoor though it rather gets overshadowed by Edgardo's spectacular aria which follows, after he has learned of Lucia's death. Here Albelo sang with generous tone and made the aria's sombre beauty count for much. The recitative was vividly done, with the aria impressively intense and vivid,  The final Donizetti aria was Spirto gentil (Gentle spirit) from La Favorita, sung with a lovely well filled line, notable for the way he didn't push his voice until we got spectacular the full power at the very end.

Finally, La donna e mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto, song vibrantly, vividly and robustly, very much a spinto feel to the voice.

We were treated to two encores, the Lamento di Federico from Cilea's L'Arlesiana, sung with a fine rich voice, with a strong but simple line and finally opening up at the end. Then the 'short version' of A mes amis from Donizetti's La fille du regiment, with all the top C's in order. Albelo's account was thrilling rather than flexible, inevitable given the spinto nature of his voice, but the piece made a superb encore.

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