Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Voice of Furio Zanasi

During more than 40 years of listening to early music it has often struck me how little influence the quality of the human voice has on the quality of a performance. I have heard voices which appealed to me because of their sheer beauty, but then the interpretation of the music left me completely cold or was even outright annoying. No, I'm not going to name names.

The opposite also happens. I have heard voices which I am not inclined to call "beautiful", but because the singer is using his material so intelligently and so much submits himself to what the composer requires from the interpreter I can only bow and admire what he is doing.

I just happened to meet such a singer - on disc, that is. The Italian baritone Furio Zanasi is a well-known singer who has worked with many conductors, not just from the early music scene, but also from the world of 19th-century music. But his main interest seems to be early music, and in particular Italian repertoire. Recently he has recorded a disc, called 'La voce di Orfeo', with the ensemble La Chimera, directed by Eduardo Egüez (Naïve). A comprehensive review is going to appear on MusicWeb International and later on my own site in due course, but I would like to point out how great that disc is.

The programme revolves around Francesco Rasi, one of the most celebrated singers from the the time of Monteverdi, who participated in almost every opera performance in the first decades of the 17th century, including Monteverdi's Orfeo. The main thing his contemporary Giulio Caccini asked from a singer was what he called recitar cantando, a speechlike way of singing. If one wants to know what exactly this is, listen to this disc. Zanasi just comes up with really brilliant performances of pieces by Monteverdi, Caccini, d'India and Rasi himself. It is so great to hear a singer who is able to apply the right ornaments, who can sing a trillo properly and who understands that the messa di voce was an important tool of early 17th-century singers.

This year is just one month old, but I know for sure that this disc is going to be one of my records of the year.

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