Sat 21 Feb 2009, The Scotsman

 

¡Canto Vivo!
****

QUEEN'S HALL, EDINBURGH

SUSAN NICKALLS 

SOPRANO Claire Debono and guitarist Simon Thacker presented a varied programme of music from Italy, Spain and Brazil in ¡Canto Vivo! 

The first half featured big themes and gorgeous melodies from the operatic stage but reworked on a smaller and more intimate scale for the 19th century salon. Bellini's charming cantilenas Vaga luna, che inargenti and Ma rendi pur contento, originally written for voice and piano, suited Debono's warm and seductive tones, and her vocal agility was put to the test in Mauro Giuliani's richly ornamented arrangement of the cavatina Di tanti palpiti from Rossini's opera Tancredi

Thacker's solo guitar contributions included Julian Arcas's curious Fantasia on themes from La Traviata that picked out Verdi's gutsy arias in soft pinging harmonics along with virtuosic pieces by Mertz – Gondoliera and Tarantella – which demonstrated Thacker's formidable technique. 

The touching mutterings of a jilted peasant girl to her mule in the Sicilian lament Amuri Amuri, complete with appropriate vocal effects, led nicely into the 20th century repertoire in the second half. There was something quite psychedelic about Cesar Guerra-Peixe's 1960s Mae d'agua, with its free-range vocals anchored to a more formal structure that hinted at the 12-tone technique influencing his output.

To end the evening, Roberto Gerhard's Cantares, inspired by Spanish folk tunes, captured the musical vibrancy of the language, which Debono clearly relished in these touching and often racy pieces.