Respighi Songs: Fine, Dry Art With Ian Bostridge

Review by: Jens F. Laurson


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 9

How does the hackneyed phrase go, “Don’t yuck my yum”? So if you are into the somewhat terse, easy-listening-averse ways of Ottorino Respighi’s art songs, or simply want to discover the composer at the opposite end from the lush bombast of Pini di Roma, by all means, the Ian Bostridge recording (with Saskia Giorgini as accompanist) on Pentatone is a find: Rare morsels, carefully selected, very artfully and meticulously done, with perhaps just a hair too much of studied artistry, on the label where major-label artists go to record what’s dear to their hearts after they’ve run out of Schubert.

Bostridge is ever free of bluster but also does not appear to be as prone to hyper-enunciating as he sometimes does in German, or pecking at select phrases like a hen with an appetite. There’s a bit of 20th-century French mélodie in several of Respighi’s songs, not limited to the three included here that are set to French poetry: In the pointillism of “Egle” for example, or in the lulling lyricism of “Crepuscolo” (both part of Deità silvane). The brittle fragility of Quattro Liriche’s “La naiade” is impressive; the selections “O falce di luna” and “Notte” from Sei Liriche P90 and P97, respectively, listened to with relaxed care and giving them some time, begin to blossom like a budding flower cut and placed in a glass on the window sill.

The four Scottish songs are neat, especially for anyone who cares about the Haydn (or the lesser Beethoven) versions of these, and how they are similar (or different) in flavor and interpretation–although Bostridge really goes for the Scottish like the Alexander Brother Highland Lads with a touch of Groundskeeper Willie (from The Simpsons). A niche recommendation of the first order.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one; Gemma Bertagnolli (Stradivarius)

  • Ian Bostidge (tenor); Saskia Giorgini (piano)

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