The Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801) was among the most prolific and in his day most popular composers of the late eighteenth century, probably as popular as Haydn and known to more people than Mozart. Still, life is sometimes unfair, and time has a way of making up for things. Mozart may have died penniless, but today it's obviously his music, not Cimarosa's, that most people recognize and prefer. Meanwhile, with the possible exception of his opera Il matrimonio segeteo, the listening public have largely relegated Cimarosa to the ranks of near obscurity.
Fortunately, the folks at Naxos have been trying their best to keep Cimarosa's name alive with among other things a series of overture recordings, this being the fourth volume and this time with Michael Halasz and the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice.
The disc contains nine Cimarosa overtures for a total playing time of just over sixty-six minutes. Here's a rundown of the program:
I sdegni per amore
La finta frascatana
I tre amanti
Le donne rivali
I finti nobili
Il pittore parigino
L'amante combattuto dalle donne di punto, "La Biondolina"
All of the overtures are colorful and spirited, but I couldn't help taking special pleasure from La finta frascatana ("The Fake Lady of Frascata"), which not only projects a vigorous mood but has segments of intense beauty, too. The booklet notes tell us that it was I tre amanti ("The Three Lovers") that established Cimarosa's name outside Naples, and one can certainly see why it became so well liked with its rhythmic charm and pleasant lilt. Still, it was the tragedy Giunio Bruto that Haydn most admired, and who conducted it at the Esterhazy court.
Producer Jiri Stilec and engineers Vaclav Roubal and Karel Soukenik recorded the disc at The House of Music, Pardubice, Czech Republic in October 2014. If you have a few of Naxos's better recordings already on your shelf, the sound of this one won't surprise you too much. It's smooth and rounded, almost of audiophile quality, well balanced, natural, nicely defined, and, most important, easy on the ear.
More specifically, the sound is a slight bit closer than usual for a Naxos production, yielding better than average detail and clarity. It also appears more dynamic than a lot of Naxos products, again probably because it's a little more close-up than normal for the company. In any case, as I said above, it sounds just about right for the type of music it's presenting and for a small chamber orchestra.
Overall, with its lustrous performances and high-quality sound, I'd have to say this is one of the best Naxos releases I've heard in while and should make my list of 2017 favorites.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: