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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Alessandro Fossi - Bel Canto

Alessandro Fossi - Bel Canto
2009, Alessandro Fossi

Alessandro Fossi is a world class tuba player and instructor who has played with some of the most accomplished orchestras throughout Europe (the Teatro San Carlo Orchestra, Orchestra del’Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.  Fossi is also currently the Tuba Teacher at The Conservatorio “G. Rossini” in Pesaro, Italy.  Fossi teamed up with pianist Nicoletta Mezzini (Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Doc Severinson, Raina Kabaivanska) to record Bel Canto in 2008.  The album is unusually beautiful and subtle in its approach, allowing Fossi to express with occasional power, yet exceedingly with grace some of the most beautiful melody lines born of the last several hundred years. 

Fossi opens with Bach’s “Badinerie” (Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor) using the 2/4 meter to conjure and explosive energy in spite of a slightly muted recording.  You’ll expect Fossi and his tuba to take flight before the recording is over.  It’s a great opening number that sets the tone for the album.  “Vocalise” (Op. 34, No. 14) by Sergei Rachmaninoff opens on a pensive legato line.  Fossi brings out the beauty of Rachmaninoff’s melody.  While subtlety is not necessarily a term one might closely associate with the tuba, Fossi plays with a deft touch that’s as pleasing as it is surprising.  Fossi next takes on Trygve Madsen’s “Sonata for Tuba and Horn”, here simply entitled “Sonata”, recreating three movements (“Andante Sostenuto”, “Allegro Energico” and “Allegro Moderato”).  Fossi dances and plays with Mezzini’s piano amidst a somewhat dark melody line throughout, with “Andante Sostenuto” playing like the soundtrack to an action film at times.  The two dance together throughout “Allegro Energico”, while alternating on tremendous runs in an almost call-and-response style in “Allegro Moderato”. 

“Variations On A Theme From ‘Norma’” (J.B. Arban) is a pretty and gentle piece that turns into a delightful canter.  Fossi and Mezzini build an aural canvas here that is vibrant and full of life.  Fossi is absolutely acrobatic with the tuba, changing your expectations and understanding of what the instrument is capable of.   “Après Un Rêve”, from Gabriel Fauré’s Three Melodies (Op.7) is reverent in approach.  Fossi’s melody line is highly legato and dream-like while Mezzini provides percussive intent on piano.  Together they realize Fauré’s coming out of darkness dream while yearning for the return to night.  Both Fossi and Mezzini show a distinctive subtlety and finesse here.  “Vissi d’arte” is a song of abject misery from Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca.  Sung by Tosca herself, “Vissi d’arte” questions why she is forsaken by God in spite of her faith.  Fossi’s play is beautiful, but loses some of the darkness and despair in the translation.

Fossi bounces back nicely on Mozart’s “Alleluia, Exultate” (K. 165), nailing the utterly relaxed jubilation Mozart intended as his tuba dances around Mezzini’s fine piano play.  “Una Furtiva Lagrima”, from Gaetano Donizetti’s Elisir d’Amore (Elixir of Love) is a sleepy, sorrowful aria.  magic potions, con men and unrequited love are the back story as Donizetti’s Nemorino take joy in thinking his love potion has won him the love of Adina.  Once again Fossi’s delivery is amazingly beautiful although it the mood he casts here seems out of synch with the story behind the song.  Fossi closes with a lyric, loving take on Ennio Morricone’s “Once Upon A Time In The West”, casting the legato melody line as a thing of pure beauty.  It’s a quiet, dreamy closer that is the perfect aperitif.

Whatever your expectations are coming in to Alessandro Fossi’s Bel Canto, he will surprise you.  The album is a work of sublime beauty, surprising and inspiring by turns.  Fossi is grace personified with the tuba, and Nicoletta Mezzini is his equal on piano.  For those who think the tuba is a big funny instrument at the back of the orchestra, Bel Canto will turn your worldview upside down.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Alessandro Fossi at (English translation).  Bel Canto is available from as a CD or Download.  Digital copies of the album are also available via iTunes.

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