Friday 4 April 2014

Antonio Poli at Rosenblat Recitals

Antonio Poli at the Wigmore Hall for Rosenblatt Recitals © Jonathan Rose
Antonio Poli
© Jonathan Rose
Beethoven, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Respighi, Tosti, Donaudy, Cilea & Rossini: Antonio Poli, Jan Philip Schulze: Rosenblatt Recitals at the Wigmore Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Apr 2 2014
Star rating: 4.0

Imaginative recital spanning German, Russian and Italian repertoire from this up and coming tenor

Italian tenor Antonio Polio has sung Cassio (Otello) and Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) at Covent Garden. His current repertoire includes lyric tenor roles in both Italian and German opera and he will be singing Tamino (Die Zauberflote) in Bari later this year. So it was with great interest that I attended Poli's  recital at the Wigmore Hall with pianist Jan Philip Schulze for Rosenblatt Recitals on 2 April 2014. Their varied programme included arias and songs by Beethoven, Robert and Clara Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Respighi, Tosti, Stefano Donaudy, Cilea and Rossini.

Poli spent a period as a member of the 'Young Ensemble' at the Semper Oper in Dresden. This background perhaps showed in the firm and direct way he addressed Beethoven's two songs, Wonner der Wehmut and Freude und leidvoll, both dating from 1810 and setting lyrics by Goethe. Poli's is a lyric voice with an admirably firm centre. He captured the impulsive passion of the pieces and brought out the hints of Florestan in the latter.

Robert Schumann's Geisternahe (from his 1850 Hochzeitlieder) had a lovely feel for the words, combined with a fine sense of line and intensity. This song was paired with one by Schumann's wife Clara, Liebst du um Schoenheit (a Ruckert setting from 1841). This was a more melodically lyrical piece, not as complex as Robert Schumann's song but Poli's performance was very charming and his stage presence very involving.

Perhaps surprisingly, what followed next was a group of Russian songs (sung in Russian). First three by Tchaikovsky. Don Juan's Serenade (1878) had a nicely seductive charm. Amid the din of the Ball (1878) had a lovely lyric feel and intensity, though perhaps Poli's tone was not quite dark enough. In None but the lonely heart (1869) he caught the lovely melancholy feel of the piece. His was an intensely passionate performance, but thankfully not over sung and he gave the song a nice inward quality.

Antonio Poli and Jan Philip Schulze at the Wigmore Hall for Rosenblatt Recitals © Jonathan Rose
Jan Philip Schulze and Antonio Poli
© Jonathan Rose
Poli and Schulze followed these with a group of Rachmaninov songs. A Dream had a nice impulsive feel. A Passing Breeze (1912) was an interestingly complex piece and rather haunting. Both Poli and Schulze gave it with a quietly controlled intensity. In my garden at night (1916) started as a lyrical recitative but then Poli opened up and the climax of the second verse was quite thrilling. He and Schulze captured the mysterious, enigmatic quality to the song.

Poli and Schulze finished the first half with Lensky's act two aria from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin (1879). Poli brought a quite thrilling quality to the piece, combined with a nice sense of line. His voice was Italianate in its brightness but firmly centred and the result was rather moving, especially the moments when he fined his voice down. Poli's CV does not list Eugene Onegin but you sense that Lensky is a role that he is moving towards.

For the second half we moved to Italy and Poli clearly relaxed a little and allowed his voice to open up somewhat.

Schulze was highly imaginative in the piano introduction to Respighi's Pioggia (1909) with Poli joining in with a highly vivid lyrical arioso. In Respighi's Nebbie (1906) Poli sang with quite a dark sound, making the song rather thrilling. He and Schulze made much of the song's contrasts in dynamics, creating something rather intense. In alto mare (1909) was vividly dramatic. In these songs, and the Tosti songs which followed, you sensed Poli really making something of the songs, having the technique and musicality to make them work.

Both Tosti songs date from the 1880's, relatively early in his long career. Ideale was sung with fine control and a lovely mezzo-voice. Marechiare was vividly projected with great charm.

In a change to the programme an aria from Massenet's Werther was replaced by Una furtiva lagrima from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore. Poli started the aria with a lovely mezzo-voce and then grew in power. His hushed, honeyed tones brought great charm to the piece.

Next followed a song by lesser known Italian composer Stefano Donaudy (1870 - 1925). O del mio amato ben was perhaps rather old-fashioned for its 1918 date, but though sentimental it was beautifully lyrical and melodic. The better known Lamento di Federico from Francesco Cilea's L'Arlesiana was rather well done, and rather thrilling at times. Poli and Schulze finished with a charming and dexterous performance of Rossini's La danza.

Throughout Poli was ably supported by Jan Philip Schulze who impressed in his command of a wide variety of music and his sympathetic accompaniment. Poli is certainly a tenor to watch and displayed musicality and intelligence in a highly satisfying programme.

We were treated to two encores, firs a Sicilian song popularised by Giuseppe di Stefano and then a Neapolitan song.
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