BRAHMS: Violin Sonata No. 1 in G, Op. 78. Violin Sonata No.
2 in A, Op. 100. Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108. Scherzo in
These are three of the initial SACD releases from a company that may be new to many collectors. FONÈ is an Italian label now in its tenth decade. You can visit the company's website (http://www.fone.it) for a complete listing of their offerings and a statement of recording philosophy of producer Giulio Cesare Ricci, along with a complete listing of their releases. These include many unusual operas (Haydn's Il Mondo della Luna, Mascagni's L'Amico Fritz, Lodoletta, Il Piccolo Marat and I Rantzau) along with standards (Lucia di Lammermoor, Cavalleria Rusticana) Singers, unfortunately, are not identified on the web site.
Of these three releases, greatest interest musically is the Brahms disk which features the distinguished violinist Salvatore Accardo who has had a memorable recording career over the past three decades. For major labels he has recorded all of the violin concertos of Haydn, Mozart and Bruch along with concertos of Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Bach, Ginastera and, of course, Vivaldi's The Seasons. On this SACD he is assisted by pianist Bruno Canino in analog recordings made in the St Cecilia Academy in Rome in December 1997 which have been transferred into the digital format—it seems rather odd that these were not recorded digitally to begin with. This is a SACD but not a multi-channel recording. The exemplary performances are beautifully recorded in a resonant site, and the disk is generous in playing time.
Both of the other recordings were made at Wexford Festival Opera in the Wexford Thetre Royal in October/November 2001. This opera company was founded in 1951 and each season presents three productions of rare operas in the small theatre. The two operas are, indeed, rarities, seldom given by major opera companies. Massenet's Sapho, premiered in 1897, is about Jean Gaussin, a young man in love wih an artist's model, the title character, whom he does not realize has a disreputable past. Although she is in love with him, she gives him up as their relationship would ruin his career. The CD booklet points out the similarity of Sapho to Verdi's La traviata, written more than four decades earlier. There's a good reason why Sapho isn't presented often; Gounod's opera of the same name, composed in 1851, is far superior
Dvorák's Jakobin dates from 1889 and was thought of highly by the composer. It has a rather inconsequential plot about about Czech village folk life, with a Count who has an estranged son (Bohus), a nephew (Adolf), a schoolmaster (Benda), and a pair of young lovers (Jiri and Terinka). While pleasant enough, the music is far from Dvorák's best, surely not approaching the power of his symphonic poems based on folk ballads of Karel Jaromir Erben, and the operas The Devil and Kate, Rusalka and Armida, all written during the next decade.
Performances of both operas are of high quality, and the recorded sound is excellent, with rear channels providing reflected sound. The Wexford Theatre obviously isn't very resonant, which gives a crisp edge to the voices. Packaging of both of these is rather strange. Both CD booklets give a rather detailed synopsis of the opera and historical background. One full page of each booklet is devoed to a listing of all 38 ladies and gentlemen of the Opera Chorus, another page to a listing of all 60 members of the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Belarus—but there is no information whatever about any of the singers! There are several photographs in each booklet and a listing of individual tracks (an oddity: in the listings for Jakobin, I.D. for many tracks begins with "Add"—I have no idea what this means.
If you're looking for off-the-beaten-path operas, here are two of them, very well presented. The Foné label is being distributed by Acoustic Sounds, and these can be bought through them: These recordings are available from Acoustic Sounds (http://www.acousticsounds.com).
R.E.B. (May 2004)