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Soulful Moods from a Glorious Bass

Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre
10/02/2017 -  & September 27, 29, 2017 (Sydney)
Sergei Rachmaninov: Fate, Op. 21 No. 1 – A Dream, Op. 8 No. 5 – Lilacs, Op. 21 No. 5 – The Silent Night, Op. 4 No. 3 – How Nice It Is Here, Op. 21 No. 7 – I Was With Her, Op. 14 No. 4 – It Is Time, Op. 14 No. 12 – O, No I Beg You, Do Not Leave, Op. 4 No. 1 – The Field Are Covered Still With Snow, Op. 14 No. 11
Modest Mussorgsky: The Leaves were whispering sadly – What Are Words of Love to You? – Song of the Old Man – The Night – The Winds Blow – Songs and Dances of Death

Ferruccio Furlanetto (Bass), Igor Tchetuev (Piano)

F. Furlanetto (© Courtesy Opera Australia)

It is difficult to imagine a more lauded or decorated performer than Italian Basso Ferruccio Furlanetto. After his 2015 portrayal of Philip II in Don Carlos, he returns to Opera Australia for recital performances ahead of his much anticipated Don Quichotte in 2018.

This is a glorious voice; intricate in colouring and richly sonorous. He imbues every piece with highly detailed shading and uses many techniques of vocal decoration to express mood and tone. For it is the mood created by these two Russian composers which is the lasting impression: the mournful inevitability of Rachmaninov’s Fate, contrasted against the hopefulness of his Lilacs; the desperation and despair of Mussorgsky’s What Are Words of Love to You? against the bleak realities of Songs and Dances of Death. Mr. Furlanetto brings and seemingly endless palette of hues and nuance to each piece, creating a lush and detailed overall impact.

In the warm acoustic of the Melbourne Recital Centre, he effortlessly filled the space; his delicate tapering of the knock on the door by Fate in the first piece juxtaposed against powerful projections and towering high notes. Mr Furlanetto gave us a performance which was varied and patterned when it would have been too easy to portray the pieces as unrelentingly sombre and doom-laden.

The set of Rachmaninov songs were the more colourful ranging from bitterness and desperation to tenderness and youthful love. The Mussorgsky pieces set a more consistent tone of melancholy and resentment tempered by a fascination with death and finality. Across this range, there seems to be little room for variety but Mr Furlanetto created a strong awareness of the Russian sensitivity, enhanced by his eloquent phrasing and superbly crisp diction.

Ukrainian pianist Igor Tchetuev is deeply versed in this repertoire. He has a huge performance history working with some of the great conductors and recording artists and also maintaining a busy recital and ensemble performing schedule. His touch at the keyboard was as diverse and richly shaded as the singer’s. Deeply rumbling, thunderous rolls and heavy use of the pedal stood alongside delicately faded upper register and sweetly whispered falling of leaves. Accompanying the powerful vocal ability of the singer, this was a performance in its own right – very much a partnership in creating the mood and tone of the recital.

There is a mystery and darkly fascinating aspect to these songs which was emphasised by both performers. The program created a memorable overall effect and was enthusiastically acclaimed by the audience. Both performers gave the impression of a deep and thorough knowledge of this music. Mr. Furlanetto’s performance history leaves no doubt of his ability in the Russian language being the first non-Russian to be invited to perform Boris on both historical main stages of that country.

This recital was a rewarding one in that art song cycles are infrequently performed here and even less frequently by so eminent a singer. Mr. Furlanetto is clearly deeply invested in the Basso repertoire of the Russians and his consideration of every word and every note was evident throughout his masterful performance. We eagerly look forward to his return to the stage for Opera Australia in their coming season.

Gregory Pritchard



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