Petre Munteanu, Tenor
Arias and songs by Handel, Bellini, Schubert, Wolf, Debussy, Bartók, Buzzi-Peccia, and Donaudy (plus Italian folksongs).
Petre Munteanu, tenor, various accompanists, orchestras, and conductors.
Symposium 1332 (F) (AAD?) TT: 78:11

This disc offers a varied and fascinating glimpse into the artistry of Rumanian lyric tenor, Petre Munteanu (1919-1988). Munteanu enjoyed an important career in Europe as an operatic, concert, and recital artist. He also made several fine commercial recordings, including a winning Ernesto in a mid-50s Don Pasquale, released on the Philips label. Unfortunately the catalogue indicates that only two Munteanu recordings are currently available—a MYTO release of a 1956 Stuttgart broadcast of Mozart’s Zaide, and this Symposium recital.

Petre Munteanu was not what one might call a “flashy” singer. His voice was neither large, nor particularly remarkable in its upper register. However, it was a quite lovely voice, with a controlled, focused vibrato, and admirable consistency throughout the registers. Munteanu was also an exceptionally subtle artist, with crystal-clear diction, and the ability to produce a wide variety of colors and dynamics. His breath control was exceptional, allowing him to spin long elegant lines, and to engage in a masterful (and always tasteful) use of rubato. For the most part, his legato was exemplary too, although occasionally, he did resort to a delicate use of aspirates. The recordings on this disc span the years 1943-1977, and document that Petre Munteanu was able to maintain a high level of artistic and vocal achievement throughout his long career.

The Symposium disc features Munteanu in repertoire that spans several centuries and five languages (Italian, German, Hungarian, French, and Spanish). The recordings are taken from the singer’s personal collection . I don’t think there is a weak link among them. Among my personal favorites are three Bellini chamber songs (“Il fervido desiderio,” “Vaga luna,” and “Malinconia”). Munteanu sings these intimate songs with a tender, affectionate, approach usually lacking in more “operatic” interpretations. To my ears, this is all for the better. Munteanu also performs a series of Debussy songs with an infectious sparkle and mastery of light and shade.

Rarities include Schubert’s Der Hirt auf Dem Felsen—usually the province of sopranos—and Bartók’s Dorfszenen, sung in the original Hungarian. A leisurely and ravishing interpretation of Donaudy’s “O del mio amato ben”—one of the best I’ve ever heard—brings the recital to a most satisfying close.

The sound is generally quite fine, although the Bartók cycle suffers from some distortion. The liner notes include a biography of Munteanu and brief discussion of the recordings. It’s regrettable that no texts or translations are included, particularly given the rarity of a good portion of the repertoire. But my gratitude to Symposium for documenting the artistry of this superb, but neglected artist far outweighs any frustration I might have over the omission. Highly recommended.

K.M. (Sept. 2003)