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Akiko Nakajima – soprano / Niels Muus - piano


Martini: Plaisir d’amour

Scarlatti: Le violette; Sento nel core

Mozart: Ridente la calma

Bellini: La Ricordanza

Auber: L’esultanza*

Cagnoni: Pensiero d’amore*

Mercadante: L’abbandonata; La prece dell’orfana; La palomma

Ricci: Lamento*

Thomas: Sola!*

Verdi: Stornello

Tosti: Aprile; Tormento; Ideala; Chanson de l’adieu; Goodbye


* World premiere recordings

Dynamic CDS 556
[Recorded March 2007 – 58 mins]


This CD was recorded just over a year after I heard Ms Nakajima at the Wigmore Hall and here she is in fine voice, with no traces of the cold/jet lag that were troubling her on that occasion.


At the heart of the CD are a group of songs drawn from Album a Benefizio del Poeta F M Piava, a venture initiated by Verdi to provide funding for his ailing veteran librettist friend.   This publication is of considerable interest and some significance, and world premiere recordings (asterisked in the listing) of contributions by composers whose names are somewhat neglected these days are more than welcome. 


The CD starts on more familiar territory with Martini’s Plaisir d’amour, immortalised by both Yvonne Printemps and Elvis Presley.   Nakajima has a soprano of considerable purity and she can sail into the stratosphere of high coloratura with apparent ease.  Hers is not a big voice, but it does have a rather steely edge which I found somewhat at odds with the unashamedly romantic mood of both this piece and the two Scarlatti songs that follow it.  With Mozart’s Ridente la calma she is back in her natural territory and she turns the recently discovered Bellini song La Ricordanza (which shares musical roots with I Puritani) into a miniature perfection.


Next come the Piave settings referred to above.   They make a charming and well contrasted group, and both singer and pianist present them in persuasive salon style.


After a couple of pleasing bagatelles by Mercadante, Ms Nakajima rounds up her recital with a batch of Tosti songs. There is a logic in this choice, since Tosti was a pupil of Mercadante, but he leans towards the uninhibited world of operetta and this singer does not have the heft of voice for that world.  There are moments when she is tempted into forcing her voice, and the glistening quality, so admirable in bel canto, is dimmed. 


Serena Fenwick