Allegro con Brio (Wide Classique 2012)
A Virtuoso Journey (Centaur 2014)
While still in its early stages, Rita D’Arcangelo’s career has been distinguished, international, and very crowded, beginning with degrees from Manchester, Milan, and Mannheim Conservatories and masterclasses with Sir James Galway in Italy and Switzerland and going on to multiple prize-winning appear- ances at flute competitions worldwide, a Carnegie Hall debut in 2011, and orchestral and teaching positions in Japan and Poland. Wisely, in the midst of this activity, she has chosen her recording projects with care, issuing just four CDs since 2005 and selecting her repertoire with the eye of a musicologist as well as that of a soloist. The result has been not just the emergence of a major artist but also the further development of the flute repertoire.
A case in point was her 2010 recording Il Pastor Fido, featuring Six Sonatas for flute and continuo—written by Nicolas Chedeville but for 250 years attributed to Antonio Vivaldi, requiring interpretation as the work of a French composer even though it is a pastiche of Italian music.
Having carried that off with great aplomb, in 2012 D’Arcangelo issued Allegro Con Brio, a double CD that received the Award of Excellence in the category “Instrumental Performance Solo” at the Global Music Awards in Los Angeles. Here, with the very able piano accompaniment of Giuliano Mazzoccante, she presents a program in two parts, split between the two CDs.
The first CD presents a variety of shorter pieces from such composers as Elgar, Fauré, and Rossini, including three well- known and much-loved pieces: Il Carnevale di Venezia by Briccialdi, Liebesleid by Kreisler, and La Ronde des Lutins by Bazzini. The second CD contains performances of two cornerstones of the flute repertoire: César Franck’s Sonata in A Major (originally written for violin and piano) and Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata in D Major (later transcribed for violin and piano.) Each part of the program requires both technical virtuosity and melodic interpretation, qualities D’Arcangelo possesses in abundance, with the result that the performance clearly justifies its Global Music award.
Much of the quality of Allegro Con Brio resides in the interplay between D’Arcangelo and her excellent accompanist, but for her most recent recording, A Virtuoso Journey, she has turned to what is perhaps the most demanding performance discipline for her instrument—works for solo flute. To create the program, she has again turned to her skills as a musicologist.
As explained in Andrea Bendetti’s informative liner notes, the early 19th century saw both the arising of Romanticism and the technical development of the flute, among other instruments, in response to—and, in turn, stimulating—the expressive and virtuosic tendencies of the era. To represent these trends in the first half of the 1800s, D’Arcangelo has developed a program that illustrates the developments in flute technique and repertoire that helped bring it to the position it holds today.
One approach to composition from this era is well represented — the writing of variations on popular themes and arias from opera. Thus we hear variations on arias from Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, and Bellini’s Norma, and on a theme from Rossini’s Armida by composers such as Mercadante, Hoffmeister, and Giulio Bricialdi, as well as short pieces by the likes of Köhler, Kuhlau, Fürstenau, and Giuseppe Rabboni. These are less well-known pieces, but many artists will want to add them to their repertoire after hearing D’Arcangelo’s bravura performances.
It is hard to imagine what might come next in this sequence of recordings. It will certainly be worth waiting for.
This review, by Peter Westbrook, first appeared in Flutist Quarterly, Summer 2015, and is used by permission
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