Cantilena is a CD of art songs by various composers arranged for soprano, harp and cello. It’s an interesting twist on music that one is likely to be fairly (sometimes very) familiar with in the usual voice and piano format. It’s a generous disk with nineteen songs in all. The composers featured are Debussy, Duparc, Fauré, Massenet, Tosti, Tedeschi, Richard Strauss, Gregory and Villa-Lobos. The performers are soprano Gillian Zammit, harpist Britt Arend and cellist Frank Camilleri. Arend and Camilleri are principals with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.
The French and Italian material is pleasant enough but it was the Strauss that intrigued me. I have no idea how many times I have listened to Morgen; either for violin and piano or orchestra, but I can say it sounds entirely fresh when performed on harp and cello. Allerseelen feels different too. It’s hard to define what exactly is different. Perhaps they feel a bit more lyrical, a bit less dramatic than with the more percussive piano? I’m really not sure but I know I want to listen to all the Strauss pieces again; especially as, in fact, a couple of the songs are not that often performed or recorded. The performances are very good all around. The instrumentalists are excellent and Zammit is a sensitive singer with a rather bright tone that suits some of the songs better than others. Fortunately the music I found most interesting seems to be the best fit.
Another interesting piece on the disk is the three song cycle Tluq (Climb) by Alex Vella Gregory. This is the first art song in Maltese I’ve ever heard. It sets poetry by John Aquilena on the themes of loss of love, regret, loneliness, and eventual reconciliation. The music is tonal and quite beautiful asnd Maltese has a colour palette all of its own . It’s a very interesting piece and I’ll be going back to this one too.
The disk was recorded in October 2019 at Blagoje Bersa Concert Hall in Zagreb, Croatia. It’s clear and well balanced. The disk package includes texts, notes and bios.
All in all, an interesting, indeed quite intriguing disk.