Based on a Romantic tragedy by Zacharias Werner, Attila is set in the 5th century AD. The opera takes as its starting point Attila’s plans to storm Rome with his army of Huns and the Roman’s attempts to prevent him. As with Nabucco and I Lombardi, Verdi spiced up the action with a number of patriotic choruses, guaranteeing that – against the background of the Italian movement for unification – the opera was a great success.
"The trees are coming into leaf/Like something almost being said." Taking a cue from these lines of Philip Larkin, pianist Simone Dinnerstein casts her album of the music of J.S. Bach and Franz Schubert in poetic terms. Her understanding of the composers is summed up in her own words: "The music of Bach and Schubert share a distinctive quality, as if wordless voices were singing textless melodies." Of course, Bach and Schubert were masters of setting texts to profoundly expressive music, so it is fruitful to look for the lyrical impulse in their keyboard works and appropriate to find songful interpretations. Yet Dinnerstein doesn't merely serve up rhapsodic renditions or treat the music as some kind of tuneful vehicle for idiosyncratic or personal reveries. Her playing is quite in character for both composers, and her treatment of the material is far from self-indulgent. Indeed, counterpoint and harmony are carefully balanced against the upper lines, and Dinnerstein is completely in control of the inner parts in Bach's partitas and the rhythmic subtleties of Schubert impromptus. Dinnerstein's playing is well-rounded and skillful, and the care she lavishes on the smallest details of execution may well remind listeners of Glenn Gould (without his attendant eccentricities) or Angela Hewitt.
This tale of love, disguised nobility, murder, and love lost may sound like any other opera to some. But Verdi's Luisa Miller is a gem of the verismo genre. The gorgeous staging is surmounted only by a cast which includes Marcelo Alavarez, Leo Nucci, Fiorenca Cedolins, and Giorgio Surian.
Walton has been heralded as the most important composer of the 20th century. I knew little of his work and wanted to 'hear' for myself. His musical range is impressive and I feel that he has influenced many contemporary composers.
For "La forza del destino", Verdi created one of his most famous melodies, the "fate" motif that permeates the whole of the score. Music and action alternate in masterly fashion between large-scale crowd scenes and intimate interiority, in that way illustrating Verdi's real theme: the manner in which fallible human beings are destroyed by a cruel fate.