This review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.
This recording contains the solo works from Sances’ fourth book of songs plus the slightly better known chaconne Accenti queruli. They are all sung by tenor Bud Roach accompanying himself on a replica baroque guitar. The songs are strophic settings of love poetry of unknown origin, perhaps the composer himself. They range quite widely in mood from the rather doleful O perduti dilettithrough the very colourful Che pietà sperar si puòto the ironic Dove n’andrò. The poetry is less directly bawdy than some contemporary English material but the sexual allusions come thick and fast in a piece such as Rapitemi, feritemi. These songs may lie in that ambiguous area between art song and popular song but there’s no lack of musical interest here.
The performance style is intriguing. Roach is a very versatile singer who has covered a lot of ground from medieval secular drama through opera to Irving Berlin and contemporary art song. He also has a lot of both solo and ensemble experience with early baroque works. This gives him a lot of stylistic options to work with. He is also, of course, accompanying himself, which presents its own set of opportunities and constraints. He ornaments extensively but in a fairly restrained way. He also pitches his vocal style more to the conversational than the operatic which, I think, suits the guitar accompaniment. Self-accompanying also allows him a rhythmic flexibility that I think is needed as much in this material as in, say, traditional folk music, with which it has some affinities. What makes this disc successful I think is that Roach has found a style that works for him and the music. He avoids the danger of sounding too ‘big’. It’s the difference between listening to a classically trained singer who doesn’t get the idiom singing traditional folk, say Kiri Te Kanawa, and one who does like Tom Allen!
The recording itself is quite resonant. It was recorded at Central Presbyterian Church in Hamilton and sounds like it. I do wonder whether a slightly drier, more intimate acoustic would have suited the material better. That said it’s detailed and clear. Full Italian texts and translations by McMaster scholar Gabriele Erasmi are provided together with useful explanatory material.
This is an intriguing and enjoyable album featuring music not well known to modern audiences brought to life in an individual and effective performance style.