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“Intermezzi del Verismo”
Giacomo Puccini: Preludio sinfonico in A major – “La tregenda” from Le villi – “Intermezzo” from Manon Lescaut and Suor Angelica
Pietro Mascagni: “Intermezzo” from Cavelleria rusticana and L’amico Fritz – “Sinfonia” from Le maschere
Ruggero Leoncavallo: “Intermezzo” from I pagliacci
Umberto Giordano: “Intermezzo” from Fedora
Francesco Cilea: “Intermezzo” from Adriana Lecouvreur
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: “Intermezzo” from I gioielli della Madonna
Italo Montemezzi: Prelude from L’amore dei Tre Re

Philharmonisches Orchester Graz, Lodovico Zocche (Conductor)
Recording: Oper Graz, Graz, Austria (February 10-15, 2014) – 51’11
cpo #777 953-2 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in German and English

“Intermezzo” could be coined as a respite ingredient, bridging sectionals within oft-telluric musical epistles to swell ‘through-composed’ verismo plots. These shortened movements, which surged at the turn of the 20th century by Italian composers, however, don’t necessarily directly explicate to the narrative of sordid lives. Despite an abundance of debating asterisks, intermezzi compositions, as linked to this genre-specific arena, display lasting and passionately colorful results.

Mentored under the likes of Carlo Maria Giulini, Ferdinand Leitner and Franco Ferrara, Lodovico Zocche is what keeps this cpo release “on its toes”, abuzz with unbridled energy. This Milanese gentleman is a magical conductor who keenly grazes over soft spots while setting ablaze energetic charisma to heighten any and all of the scores penned by these seven artists.

While the opening piece doesn’t necessarily support the CDs literal title, Puccini’s Preludio sinfonico, nonetheless, is a deserved choice. It can be looked upon as a melodic ‘summary’ or generalized phrasing of what’s to come. Zocche does well by delivering the piece as a tasteful conservative discourse, brimming and tugging away genially despite the piece’s rudderless ramble. Puccini continues on the roster with a testy, raged rendition of “La tregenda” from his first opera-ballet, Le villi (Read here), that’s quickly mollified by Manon Lescaut’s “Intermezzo”. Inside this composition, the cello introduction is soulful, not overtly sappy while harp glissandos are ethereal. Pleasantly brusque-to-the-finish, the Lescaut “Intermezzo” winds its way into cellos’ pious beatitudes and blissful tavolette twinkles excerpted from Suor Angelica.

Riding on the coattails of a successful Andrea Chénier, Umberto Giordano’s Fedora plays to the audience as a fitting melodramma, swelling with passionate pensiveness with complete synchronization from strings. Undulations are intense and full of deepened prurience. Contrasting are the more joyful aspects of verismo, highlighted by visiting Mascagni’s scherzo-laden skitters from Le maschere: Zoccha’s expresses freely but with deliberate intent, proving that whimsical punches can clearly shine inside such a commedia lirica e giocosa.

Though too numerous for elaboration, the remaining selection finds Lodovico Zocche achieving meaning and moment within each of the bars. Zocche is perspicacious in detail, at the same time eliciting charmed savoire-faire. Hearts will beat faster listening to this petite ‘slice’ of operatic draw.

Lodovico Zocche has his own reverent verismo values: grace notes gel; crescendos and descrescendos appear out of nowhere. The Philharmonic Orchestra of Graz paces with aromatic blessings, and a total complexity of realism is rendered translucent. Highly recommended.

Christie Grimstad




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