SN 8806


Nella Anfuso Contralto e Soprano

Emanuela Marcante Fortepiano (F. Comeretto - Vienna 1830)

  1. Vincenzo Bellini   La Ricordanza   {7'30}

  2. Vincenzo Bellini   Vanne, o rosa fortunata   {2'44}

  3. Vincenzo Bellini   Quando incise su quel marmo (Scena ed Aria)   {7'35}

  4. Vincenzo Bellini   Malinconia, Ninfa gentile   {1'48}

  5. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart    Ridente la calma   {4'01}

  6. Ludwig Van Beethoven  In questa tomba oscura   {3'05}

  1. Angelica Catalani - Variazioni su "Sul margine d'un rio" {7'21}

Exempla I - Tema - download mp3 293 KB 

Exempla II - Variazione - download mp3 361 KB 

Exempla III - Variazione - download mp3 210 KB 

  1. Nicolò Paganini - Variazioni su "Sul margine d'un rio" (5'27)

Exempla I - Tema - download mp3 263 KB 

Exempla II - Variazione - download mp3 286 KB 

Exempla III - Variazione - download mp3 244 KB 

  1. Angelica Catalani - Variazioni su "Nel cor più non mi sento" di Giovanni Paisiello (5'01)

Exempla I - Tema - download mp3 451 KB 

Exempla II - Variazione - download mp3 506 KB 

  1. Mauro Giuliani   Variazioni su "Di tanti Palpiti" di G.Rossini   {6'49}

  1. Vincenzo Bellini   Dolente immagine di Fille mia    {4'15 }

  2. Vincenzo Bellini   Vaga luna che inargenti   {4'10}

  3. Vincenzo Bellini   L'abbandono (Romanza)    {4'22}

  4. Vincenzo Bellini   Ma rendi pur contento    {2'41}

  5. Vincenzo Bellini   Il fervido desiderio    {3'03}

  6. Vincenzo Bellini   L'allegro Marinaro (Ballata)    {5'04}

  7. Vincenzo Bellini   Almen se non poss'io   {3'42}

  8. Vincenzo Bellini   Per pietà bell'idol mio   {3'28}

  9. Vincenzo Bellini   Bella Nice che d'amore    {3'07}

  10. Vincenzo Bellini   Guarda che bianca luna (Romanza)   {6'06}

  11. Vincenzo Bellini   Torna vezzosa Fillide (Romanza)   {11'10}

In 1774, in Vienna, the last of the great classical Italian Treatises on singing was published;

this was the Riflessioni sopra il Canto Figurato by Giambattista Mancini. In 1847 Manuel Garcia, in the second part of his Traité complet de l'art du chant, offers a complete panorama of authentic execution, that is of the execution «fiorita», of the vocal repertory of the first part of the 19th' century, a repertory that includes Auber, Meyerbeer, Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Mercadante, Paer, Weber etc, not forgetting the preceding generation of Mozart, Cimarosa, Paisiello etc.

Between these two landmarks in the history ot singing, an infinite number or other writings and documents denounce the stylistic and historical errors of the execution that our period has accustomed us to.

The fact is that the concept of Italian or Italianised singing between 1700 and 1800 is still that floral style that had characterised its long history from the time of the first documents in the 15th century. It is from the middle of the 19th century that for aesthetic reasons we witness a complete break with this tradition, and conseguently the beginnings of a technical decline, slow and inexorable. And in fact on 30th June 1864, Rossini, who already in 1858 had lamented the lack of performers for Cimarosa and Bellini, was able to write to his friend Giu-seppe Vaccai, son ot the great Nicola «(...) nessuno piu di lui [Nicola Vaccai ha saputo comporre per Ie voci umane. Se vivesse il povero amico sarebbe infelice di dover assistere all'invasione crescente degli sforzi e degli urli {nobody more than he [Nicola Vaccai] has known how to compose for the human voice. Was our poor friend alive he would be unhappy to witness the constantly growing invasion of straining and shouting}». And already Tosi in 1723 (Opinioni de’ Cantori Antichi e Moderni) denounced the fashion «oltremontana», that is French, of shouting: «Non sentirà senza nausea 1'inventato stile emetico di chi canta a onda di Mare provocando le note innocenti con villane spinte di voce; Difetto disgustoso, e incivile, però essendo venuto anch 'esso di là dai Monti passa per rarità moderna {One cannot listen without nausea to the invented emetic style of he who sings in sea waves, provoking the innocent notes with villanous straining of the voice; a disgusting defect, it is uncivil, however having this as well come from across the mountains it passes for rare modernity [page 119».- And Traetta, in the score of an his own opera , feels the need-to obtain a special effect-to write «urlo alla francese» (French-style shout). The fashionable «grand cri» also horrified Liszt in 1839.

Both technically and aesthetically, Italian singing, until almost the middle of the 19th century, has nothing in common with that which the Wagnerian and realist style of our time supplies us continually. Also, in opera of the first part of the 19th century, that which counts is «il Canto» and the quality of this singing as far as its expressive end is concerned. It is enough to consider that the same year (1819) in which Bellini was admitted as student at the conservatory «San Sebastiano» of Naples, Girolamo Crescentini, one of the last great castrati began, in the same conservatory, his career as teacher of singing. It is enough to leaf through the documents and manuscripts from Mancini, Hiller, Mozart, Corri, Rossini («Fioriture» also for Bellini's operas), Donizetti (cadenzas for Rossini's operas), the singers Crescentini, Rubini, Cinti-Damoreau, Malibran, Catalani, etc. up until Garcia, to be enlightened in an unmistakable-manner on this principle: that which interested composers, singers and the public of that time were the characteristics peculiar to singing: virtuosity, musical inventiveness and expressive capacity. Each composer kept in mind the vocal possibilities of the singer, and every composer and singer, for successive performances of the same part, adapted the original score to the particular vocal means. In this Malibran was really clever, and Rossini said mischievously «Malibran is unsurpassable. She knows all the short cuts». The personality in the «true to life» or cinematographic sense and its corresponding vocal equivalent did not yet exist, and Malibran for instance, was able to interpret both Otello and Desdemona in Rossini's «0tello», lower by two tones Sonnambula (Bellini present at London was enthusiastic), the tenor Garcia could sing Don Giovanni, whilst contralto Amines and Normas abounded as well as Cenerentola sung by a high soprano!

Particularly indicative are the Milan papers Barbiere di Siviglia, La Gazzetta privilegiata, L'Eco, La Fama or those of other Italian cities which wrote about the performances at «La Scala» or the other great opera houses; for each singer his/her vocal and technical peculiarities are minutely described with great competence.

Vocalità (Vocal Characteristics)

The decade which marks the turn of the 18th/ 19th centuries concludes the golden period in the long history of Italian singing. In these years we begin to see those signs of decadence already denounced by Mancini, the celebrated singer and teacher who from 1760 to his death (1800) was teacher of singing at the court of Vienna, one of the European centres most Italianised from the musical point of view (it is enough to consider that Pietro Metastasio was Cesarian Poet) and where the great Vittoria Tramontini Tesi (her greatest pupils were Anna De Amicis and Elisabeth Teyber, known as «Teuberinn») in 1747/8 opened a celebrated singing school. No surprise then that here Italian singers held undisputed reign. In fact the interpreters of Mozart's operas are nearly exclusively Italians, and the first interpreter of«Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail», Caterina Cavalieri (pseudonym of Franziska Cavalier born near Vienna in 1760) was a pupil of Salieri, whilst Nancy Storace (alias Anna Selina daughter of the musician Storace who emigrated to England) the first interpreter of Susanna, had studied in Venice with Sacchini. The vocal ideal of Mozart, who from 1774 to 1773 studied in London with the castrate Giovanni Manzuoli known as «Manzoli», completely mirrors the best Italian school; in his letters of 26 January 1770, 20 October 1777 and 12 June 1778, he afferms with convinction that that which matters in singing is purity and homogeneity, that which permits «spiccati» in the passages to which Burney refers talking about Anna De Amicis, who was the first interpreter of Giunia in Lucio Silla given in Milan in 1772: «she was the first singer who sang rapid ascending scales "staccato"'». This is the same «spiccato» praised by Chopin in the performance in part singing of the beloved Gladkowska (pupil of the Italian Soliva) and of the chromatic scales of Cinti-Damoreau: (Je prefère son chant à celui de la Malibran. La Malibran étonne, Cinti charme et elle exécute les gammes chromatiques mieux que le célèbre Tulon sur sa flute. II est impossible d’avoir une voix plus perfectionnéee (I prefer her singing to that of Malibran. Malibran marvels, Cinti charms and she executes chromatic scales better than Tulon on the flute. It would be impossible to have a more perfect voice [letter of 12 December 1831])». Garcia also recognised Cinti as the only singer of her time capable of producing «hammered» notes, «suoni martellati», (in fact the example given from the 17th century implies a trill). The fact is that M.lle Cinti (1801-1863) is the worthwile heir to the best Italian school, having studied with Bordogni at the Paris conservatory and with Catalani.

Angelica Catalani (Senigallia 1780-Paris 1849) carries on the great vocal Italian tradition of wich it is interesting to trace the genealogy. Pupil of P. Morandi who was in turn pupil of Padre Martini who in his turn had studied singing with the famous castrate Pistocchi (1659-1726), Angelica, who from 1814 to 1817 was also director of the Paris «Théatre des Italiens»,knew the fundamental mechanism of traditional Italian voice production to a perfection : the fusione dei registri» (fusion of registers) from which derive the purity and homogeneity and the consequent «spiccato» rendering of virtuoso passages (passaggi, volatine, gruppetti, trilli etc.). An analysis of the pedagogic genealogy of a singer explains like nothing else his or her merits and defects. This is true in the case of two famous singers: Giuditta Pasta and Maria Malibran Garcia. Great actress (Bellini considers her superior to Malibran), Giuditta did not have the fortune (having studied with the obscure B. Lotti and G. Scappa in Milan) to come to know the great Italian vocal tradition, and thus as the Milan newspaper Fama describes: «le corde basse sono un pò soffocate, le corde medie leggermente velate (the low notes are rather suffocated, the middle register slightly clouded))), whilst Garcia writes in greater detail: «La voix de cette célèbre cantatrice était dure et voilée. Une difficulté naturelle ne lui avait jamais permis, malgre l’etude la plus obstinée, d'aborder le trille ni d'exécuter dans un mouvement vif les roulades montantes; son execution consistait en gammes descendantes et en traits brisés. Les gammes montantes demeurerent pour elle une difficulté invincible; mais il n 'en fut pas de meme du trille dont elle arriva enfin à posseder le mécanisme. En effet madame Pasta (15 Novembre 1830), après dix années d'une brillante carrière, fit entendre aux Bouffes dans l'air de Tancredi un des plus magnifiques trilles à inflexions [page 70] (The voice of this famous singer was hard and veiled. A natural difficulty that had prevented him, despite the most obstinate studies to approach the trill and to perfom in a fast movement ascending scales; his execution consisted of descending scales and in short passages. The ascending scales remained for her an unsurpassed difficulty; but not so for the trill, which the end she succeeded in mastering the mechanism. In fact madame Pasta (15th November 1830), after a brilliant career of ten years, performed at the "Théatre aux Bouffes'' in the air from ' 'Tancredi'" one of the most magnificent trills ' 'à inflexions")». But neither her sister Maria shined with perfection. An expert, the celebrated Panofka, writes: «Essa scendeva più al basso, e saliva più in alto della Grisi, ma i suoi acuti e quelli di mezzo che legano la voce di testa con quella di petto, erano un pò sgradevoli (Her voice went further down and further up than that of Grisi, but her high notes and those of the middle register that join head and chest notes were rather unpleasant). To disguise these defects deriving from the lack of a total fusion of registers, and thus of homogeneity, Malibran carried out many personal changes to the score (the famous short cuts-see Rossini's judgement cited above), or charged the composer with carrying them out (one notes Bellini's letters to Florimo concerning the need to transpose by a tone and completely rewrite the famous scene from the Puritani).


The second part of Traité complet de l’art du Chant (1847) by Manuel Garcia is of fundamental importance in understanding the real characteristics of opera (not only Italian) of the first part of the 19th century. A simple reading reveals even to a non-expert the historical absurdity of a conductor like Toscanini who reproached Toti Dal Monte for her cadenza in Lucia di Lammermoor and could not put up with Tetrazzini for her «canto fiorito»! Only ignorance could support the myth of a Toscanini «restorer» of the written repertory of the first part of the 19th century, without considering that at that time the orchestral conductor had not yet taken on the role assigned to him in the Wagnerian repertory, that opera was written for the singers and that the opera director was yet to come, so that if a singer was a great actor/actress (as with Pasta), this was a personal glory because it derived from his or her own talent. Garcia's book allows us also to understand how the interpretations to which our period has accustomed us to, those of Mozart like those of Rossini (another myth to be done away with is that he wrote the fioriture of his own operas so that the singers could not intervene: in reality he used to say «I know that my arias have to be embroidered; they have been written for than"), those of Donizetti, as those of Bellini as those of Meyerbeer or of Auber or of Coppola etc. etc. are false.

Before refering to some of the countless documents that attest to the lasting of «canto fiorito» up until the middle of the 19th century, we would like to conclude with the categoric affirmation of Garcia talking about creative singing (which can only exist when the performers are excellent musicians). In chapter III, «DES CHANGEMENTS», at page. 37, he afferms: «Nous insistons sur le besoin d'affinité entre la nature de la composition et celle des ornements, puisque, sans cet accord, il n 'est pas possible de conserver à chaque auteur et à chaque composition l’originalité qui leur est propre». «REGLE GENERALE: On doit varier une pensée chaque fois qu’elle se répète, soit en totalité, soit en partie; cela est indispensable et pour donner un nouveau charme à la pensée et pour soutenir l’attention de l'auditeur (We insist on the need for an affinity between the nature of the composition and that of the ornaments, for, without this agreement, it is not possible to conserve for each composer and each composition its own originality)). «GENERAL RULE: One must vary a musical idea each time that it is repeated both in total or in part; this is indispensable and can give a new charm to the idea and can sustain the attention of the listener"). At page 38: «La nature des changements doit correspon-dre à celle de la pensée de l'auteur et présenter le meme accroissement d'effet (The nature of these changes must correspond to those of the idea of the composer and present the same growth in the effect)". In chapter V, DES STYLES DIVERS, at page 65: «0n termine heureusement le recitatif instrumenté par des ornements qui donnent de la rondeur à la pensée musicale (One terminates well instrumental recitatives with ornaments that give a completeness to the musical idea)".

Theoretical-Practical Treatises
  1. G. Mancini, Riflessioni pratiche sul Canto Figurato, Vienna 1774/Milano 1777.
  2. J. A. Hiller, Anweisung zum musikalisch zierlichen Gesange (Leipzig 1780).
  3. M. Garcia, Traité complet de l'art du Chant, Paris 1847.
Musical Documents:
  1. W. A. Mozart : a) Cadenzas for the Arias «Cara la dolce fiamma», «0 nel sen di qualche stella" and «Quelcaro amabil volto» by J. C. Bach; b) Fiorituras for the aria «Non so donde viene»;
  2. J. Haydn : Fiorituras for the aria «Quando mi dona un cenno» from Il ritorno di Tobia;
  3. Sechs Italienische Arien... mit der Art sie zu singen und zu verandern, Leipzig J. F. Junius 1778;
  4. Domenico Corri, A Select Collection of the most admired songs, duetts etc. from operas in the highest esteem, London about 1779;
  5. Fiorituras by G. Crescentini for «Questo palpito» from Apelle e Campaspe by Giacomo Tritto;
  6. Fiorituras by L. Marchesi for «Chi mi dà consiglio" and «Cara negli occhi tuoi from Pirro by Nicola Zingarelli, Venezia 1793;
  7. Cadenzas of the Italian tenor G. David for Armida by Rossini;
  8. Five cadenzas by Cinti-Damoreau for the aria «Selva opaca» from Guglielmo Tell by Rossini;
  9. Varianti by Rossini for Sig.ra Grisi the Aria, «Assisa a piè d'un salice» from Otello\
  10. Fiorituras by Rossini for Sig.ra Grisi in Capuleti e Montecchi by Bellini;
  11. Cadenzas for two voices by Rossini in Gazza Ladra;
  12. Cadenzas by Rossini for Sig.ra Clara Novello in Sonnambula by Bellini;
  13. Fiorituras by Malibran in the aria of Sara from Il Sacrificio d'Abramo by Cimarosa;
  14. Fiorituras by Malibran for the aria «Ah non credea mirarti from Sonnambula by Bellini.

The program of this recording would like to offer a varied panorama of Italian or Italianised vocal chamber music (how can we forget that Beethoven studied with Salieri, if only now and then, from 1793 to 1802 ?) with particular regard to the vocal production of Bellini and the musical form «la variazione», which enjoyed great fortune from the 18th to the 19th centuries. The variations by Catalani and Paganini furthermore are unedited, as is the Romanza «.Guarda che bianca luna» of the great Catanese, written at Palermo during his last stay (1832) in his native island and dedicated to a Sig.ra Manzocchi. As for the other arias and romanzas by Bellini we would like to note how they recall other opera compositions of Bellini: 1) «Quando verrà quel dì» with Isabella's aria (La Straniera) 2) «Vanne o rosa fortunata» with the theme of the Sinfonia from Norma 3) «Ma rendi pur contento» with Romeo's aria (I Capuleti e Montecchi); 4) «La Ricordanza» (to words by the same Pepoli) with the aria «Qui la voce sua soave» (I Puritani); 3) «Bella Nice che d'amore" with the duet Pollione-Adalgisa (Norma).

The fiorituras and cadenzas (with the exception, naturally of the Variations) of the pieces (performed at their original pitch) are by Nella Anfuso, who has taken into account all the theoretical and musical documentation available. The careful listener will note the differences in the fiorituras of Mozart, particularly characterized by: cercar la nota, appoggiaturas of various type, passaggi, syncopation, tirate, gruppi, gruppetti, trills, chromatic scales etc. from the romantic fiorituras (for which Garcia offers us the most authoritative account) which love ample volatine (flights), both ascending and descending. As regards this, we recommend particular attention in listening to the following pieces by Bellini (above all in the final parts):

1) Quando incise su quel marmo; 2) Vaga luna che inargenti; 3) Per pietà bell'idol mio; 4) Torna vezzosa Fillide; 3) Il fervido desiderio. The aria by Beethoven is purposefully lacking any type of ornamentation (apart from a few appoggiaturas) and we have restored the exact «elisione metrica» (the rythmic truncation of words) of the Italian language (that the musician from Bonn did not know well-we have, as well, Salieri's corrections by to refer to). In this aria Nella Anfuso would like to bring out Beethoven's intuitive genial sense of poetical declamation, that places him outside the contemporary world of vocal music.

The historical pianoforte used for this recording is an instrument built in Vienna in 1830 by a craftsman of Italian origin: Ferdinand Comeretto. The mechanism is of the «Viennese» type, the keyboard extention is more than 6 octaves F-G. It has three pedals, soft and fagotto (only the lower half) as well as the usual sustaining (forte) pedal.

Nella Anfuso