Laura Catrani Sings…Weird Stuff!


DE ROSSI RE: Vox in Bestia – Inferno. FRANCESCHINI: Vox in Bestia – Purgatorio. SOLBIATI: Animalia – Paradiso / Laura Catrani, sop / Stradivarius STR 37207

And here’s yet another album that lovers of modern music will lap up while those who just love their Bohèmes and Traviatas with abhor: a solo vocal recital of a cappella modern music. Laura Catrani, a young Italian soprano, has loved singing modern repertoire since she was a voice student, performing Luciano Berio’s Sequenza III which, she says, became her “pièce de resistance.” As she puts it in the liner notes:

Meticulous research, technical abilities and musical intuitions are at the basis of this repertoire. The composers commissioned to write new pieces have to take into consideration my vocality and my proclivities; music tailored for the performer reflects its uniqueness, and singing, today more than ever, draws on personal resources, highlighting musical and theatrical attitudes.

For this recital, she asked modern composers Fabrizio De Rossi Re, Matteo Francheschini and Alessandro Solbiati, all names unknown to me, to compose five short pieces based on Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso that talk about animals.

The Inferno excerpts begin with a fairly long narration, and the first note you hear out of Catrani is a very low one, almost a contralto note. Beyond the opening, there are very few words in the music; most of it is comprised of syllabic sounds. Much of the music consists of yells and outbursts, yet there are arching, lyrical lines that connect it all. And by golly, it DOES sound like something Berio would have written for Cathy Berberian!

The animals from the Inferno start out with a panther, lion and she-wolf, but then move on to creepy crawlies such as flies, wasps and worms (not my idea of animals, certainly) and then birds (starlings, cranes and turtle doves), followed by the Dog of Hell, Cerberus…not my idea of a cuddly puppy. Yet the music, despite its oddity, is fascinating, and Catrani’s performances are utterly startling in the wide range of notes and vocal effects they call for. Sophie Dunér and Sarah Maria Sun would surely take to this music. Purgatorio contains the falcons, curs, and the good ol’ lamb o’ God. If anything, Franceschini’s music is even weirder than De Rossi Re’s; in “The Curs,” he alternates some truly lovely music with vocal sounds from Catrani that sound as if someone is goosing her in the butt as she’s singing.

I don’t mean to imply that I found all of this music comical, only small bits of it. Most of it was really quite fascinating, albeit surely over the heads of most classical listeners. And it clearly suits Dante, whose works are full of bizarre descriptions.

This is a truly unique CD, which you’ll either enjoy and appreciate or hate and deprecate. It all depends on how this music strikes you.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

Follow me on Twitter (@Artmusiclounge) or Facebook (as Monique Musique)

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