Anna Caterina Antonacci – review

Wigmore Hall, London

Perhaps because of its unusual scoring for mezzo-soprano and string quartet, Ottorino Respighi's setting of Shelley's poem The Sunset, translated into Italian as Il Tramonto, doesn't get many outings. With the Heath Quartet in attendance, it formed the end point of this Wigmore Hall programme by Anna Caterina Antonacci, whose repertory includes soprano and mezzo roles, which she sings with equal success.

Antonacci is an exceptional artist in other respects. Simply but suavely dressed, she took command of the platform through natural presence rather than the exploitation of approval-winning effects. In her performances themselves, she drew the audience into a space where all that mattered was the unadulterated revelation of the words and music as one fused entity. She acted each song with facial expressions and minimal yet telling physical gestures, but above all with the extraordinary resources of an instrument she could fine down to a thread or soar on to magnificent heights.

Il Tramonto proved a good vehicle for her deeply considered yet apparently spontaneous artistry, its concentration on love and mourning allowing her to shade in the darker hues of her multicoloured tone. The Heath Quartet players supported her with refinement, drawing out all the subtlety of Respighi's expert writing; earlier, they contributed a witty account of Hugo Wolf's Italian Serenade and a delicate one of another elegiac study, Puccini's Crisantemi.

The bulk of the programme was accompanied with a blend of concentration and flair by pianist Donald Sulzen, who proved as adept in conveying the lucid textures of Debussy as in the quasi-orchestral flamboyance of Wagner's Wesendonck Songs. Meanwhile, in her presentation of the ambiguity of Debussy's intimacies, as well as in Wagner's grander, operatic manner, Antonacci was more than equal to every demand.


George Hall

The GuardianTramp

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