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SchwanewilmsApril 20, 2017
Anne Schwanewilms
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Piotr Beczala
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Vocal Arts DC
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Washington, DC 20015
202-669-1463
info@vocalartsdc.org

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"My Favorite Song"

Guest contributors select one song that has a special, personal meaning for them, sharing specific reasons about why they find the music and lyrics irresistible, and choosing a performance that they feel ideally captures the spirit of that song.

Archive of Past Selections


"My Favorite Song"
October, 2013

Welcome to a new, monthly feature of the Vocal Arts DC web site in which guest contributors select one song that has a special, personal meaning for them, sharing specific reasons about why they find the music and lyrics irresistible, and choosing a performance that they feel ideally captures the spirit of that song.

Breaking the ice, Peter Russell, General Director of Vocal Arts DC shares his selection.Tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano's performance of Ideale, by F. Paolo Tosti.

Ideale."There's nothing quite like having just been dumped via a "Dear John" letter to make a person susceptible to the spell cast by this song. It was under those circumstances that I first heard it as a very young man, on an old recording by the tenor Jussi Björling, and it served as the perfect vehicle to allow me to wallow in heartbreak, obsessively playing it again and again while downing pints of Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond between sobs. Tosti's Ideale exquisitely captures the longing and desire for an absent loved one. Beyond that, the listener's individual mindset can fill in the rest of the story. Is this fervent hope for a reunion being expressed by a lover, still in the early, ecstatic phase of a relationship, but temporarily separated from a paramour by some benign circumstance of geography or time? Are the lyrics addressed to a longtime companion or spouse far away, without whose presence the narrator feels incomplete? Or is this dreamy, passionate reverie the cri de coeur of someone bereft, pining for a great love forever lost? The beauty of Tosti's gently caressing melody and Carmelo Errico's lyrics, first published in 1882, is that they can seem any of the above, or whatever you need or wish them to be in providing you with a personal moment of catharsis.

Tosti's songs were considered sufficiently accessible to be appreciated by regular working people who enjoyed a well-crafted tune, and elegant enough to grace any salon. Their popularity coincided with the early era of the gramophone, and notable artists (Nellie Melba, Enrico Caruso, Mattia Battistini) recorded them. And they are loved by many singers--particularly tenors--to this day.

As this simple, heartfelt song can serve as a prism for the listener's emotions, it benefits in performance from a direct, uncluttered interpretation. The tendency, as is too often the case with Tosti's music, is to "interpret" and "emote," which backfires by cheapening the material and making it seem maudlin. My favorite version, a 1945 recording by Giuseppe Di Stefano, made when he was in his mid-20's, is ideally straightforward and sincere. His sound and legato singing are ravishing. His diction is so clear that one could take dictation from it, but it is also unfussy."

Take a listen and enjoy! And check back regularly for others' favorite art song.

DiStefano.

Text to Ideale

Io ti seguii come iride di pace
Lungo le vie del cielo:
Io ti seguii come un'amica face
De la notte nel velo.

E ti sentii ne la luce, ne l'aria,
Nel profumo dei fiori;
E fu piena la stanza solitaria
Di te, dei tuoi splendori.

In te rapito, al suon de la tua voce,
Lungamente sognai;
E de la terra ogni affanno, ogni croce,
In quel giorno scordai.

Torna, caro ideal, torna un istante
A sorridermi ancora,
E a me risplenderà, nel tuo sembiante,
Una novella aurora.
I followed you like a rainbow of peace
along the paths of heaven;
I followed you like a friendly torch
in the veil of darkness,

and I sensed you in the light, in the air,
in the perfume of flowers,
and the solitary room was full
of you and of your radiance.

Absorbed by you, I dreamed a long time
of the sound of your voice,
and earth's every anxiety, every torment
I forgot in that dream.

Come back, dear ideal, for an instant
to smile at me again,
and in your face will shine for me
a new dawn.

The sheet music for the piano and vocal score is available at IMSLP.


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"My Favorite Song"

Archive of Past Selections