5th January 2024
Johannes X. Schachtner's idiomatic new orchestrations of the composer's sixteen published songs inspire some ardent, full-throated singing from the American tenor - with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester on incendiary form under Ivan Repušić.
"Giacomo Puccini wrote only a few works for voice with piano accompaniment. Eleven songs were published during his lifetime; others remained lost for over a century. In 2010, a first critical edition of the total of sixteen vocal compositions was presented. Several of them are closely related to Puccini's operas and had already been written during his studies in Milan. It was this edition that inspired Johannes X. Schachtner to arrange the piano score-like accompaniments for orchestra. In early February 2023, the US tenor Charles Castronovo sang these sixteen songs for the first time together with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester conducted by Ivan Repušić. Charles Castronovo has worked with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester ever since a concert performance of Mozart's La clemenza di Tito in 2006. In the 2023/24 season, he will return to Munich as the orchestra's “Artist in Residence”. BR-KLASSIK now presents the CD “Giacomo Puccini - I Canti”. Puccini's piano songs are entirely in the Italian tradition of the 19th century. Most Italian opera composers - from Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini to Verdi - also wrote lieder, but unlike the German art song, these were always closely related to bel canto, the “beautiful song”. Priority is given here to an irresistible melos over a mostly simple accompaniment, which is nevertheless supported by charming harmonies; hardly ever do these Italian songs eschew the dramatic flair of the opera composer. In the course of his work, Johannes X. Schachtner was increasingly fascinated by the way in which these songs, which were written for very different occasions and have no contextual connection, nevertheless convey the highly exciting story of a composer's life. From the youthful, almost innocent love song “A te” to Puccini's last songs with the impressive “Morire?” – but also small album leaves such as the setting of the Italian proverb “Casa mia, casa mia”, which is only a few bars long. Some songs also afford us a glimpse into the workshop of the composer Puccini, who made use of his earlier pieces in his operas. For example, a melody from the song “Mentía l'avviso”, which was part of his final examination at the Milan Conservatory, became the famous aria “Donna non vidi mai” of Des Grieux in his opera Manon Lescaut a few years later. The sixteen songs arranged with orchestral accompaniment are complemented by orchestral works by Puccini, written during his studies at the Milan Conservatory. They reflect the musical spirit of the time that shaped the young composer – ranging from the melodic influences of his teacher Amilcare Ponchielli to the impressions that the music of Richard Wagner left on him. Themes from these pieces also recur in his operas. Puccini's enthusiasm for Wagner shimmers through unmistakably in the “Preludio sinfonica”. In the “Capriccio sinfonica” one can hear a whole reservoir of later opera melodies, the most striking of which (almost note-for-note) is the opening of La bohème. Puccini's funeral music “Crisantemi”, composed for string quartet, was written before his first resounding success with Manon Lescaut, where melodies from it recur. Puccini wrote the piece in memory of Amadeo di Savoia, Duke of Aosta, who died on January 18, 1890, and the morbid scent of the cemetery flowers pervades the three-part Andante movement."