“Does a nineteenth century Italian instrumental era exist? It certainly does. It is rich, varied, curious, often pleasant and sometimes noteworthy and considerable” – Stefano Parrino
Mercandante is, of course, known to flute players for his Concerto in E minor of which we have many recordings, including those by Rampal and Galway. It is little known, however, that before his fame Mercandante wrote many pieces for solo instruments, such as various Sinfonia Concertante, Flute concertos, Gran concerto a duo Clarinetti and Flauta e Corno da Caccia. Even lesser known, perhaps are his 58 operas, along with ballets, symphonies and choral works! In the mid 19th century Mercandante was the most respected Italian opera composer. However, he was soon overshadowed by the enduring compositions of Donizetti and Rossini. Nevertheless the quality of Mercandante’s lesser known work perhaps deserves more recognition.
Most of Stefano Parrino’s discography consists of relatively unknown works from little-known composers. Though this may raise questions as to the quality of the compositions, Parrino chooses wisely and performs everything to the highest of standards on his beautiful “all gold 994C Flute and a Wooden 894W Flute from Yamaha”.
The double CD entitled ‘Mercandante – Arie e Capricci’ is the perfect example of Parrino’s great taste in music. On the first CD you will find a selection of ‘Arie variate’, which are variations on opera arias that were most popular during the time when the operas were first performed. The main aim of these was to make the opera known and to make it accessible to those who could not afford to go to the opera house. Composers such as Rossini, Mozart and Mercandante himself populate this CD and we think it’s wonderful how beautiful, simple melodies are played expressively by Parrino.
The second CD is slightly more ‘out there’, if you like. There are 20 ‘Capricci’ or as we usually call them ‘studies’ recorded here. This is a World Premiere Recording of them and it is surprising that no one has recorded them before. They do require a lot of virtuosic technique but have a wonderful Italian charm about them. We are surprised that they are not studied alongside more prominent books such as the Andersen, Kohler, Damase and DeLorenzo studies to name but a few. Parrino’s playing here is brilliant and the execution of the pieces is very clear and precise.
Parrino delves into unfamiliar repertoire and enables listeners to access new musical experiences, providing a refreshing change from countless flute CDs. Though there are admittedly other CDs that offer variety through contemporary and experimental flute works, this CD is perhaps more accessible to those who prefer some light but original listening. We would recommend this CD to anyone who wishes to expand their flute repertoire knowledge or simply to be inspired by great flute playing.