Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu's new CD is full of dramatic and vocal virtues

By Raymond Beegle
Sunday, April 3, 2016

Il Mio Canto
Saimir Pirgu, Tenor
Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Speranza Scappucci, Contuctor
Arias by Verdi Donizetti, Puccini, Gounod, R. Strauss, Cilea, Gounod, Massenet

We have well over a century of recordings that document the temperament and manner of great personalities in opera. We even have knowledge of style reaching to Verdi himself through Toscanini, who played under the composer’s baton. In short, we have a formidable standard that a new singer will be held to when singing the great familiar arias that have already been sung by the great familiar artists, in this case, tenors such as Gigli, Schipa, Bjoerling, Kraus, and Gedda.

Even these titans have their liabilities as well as their abundant virtues. One has a more beautiful voice, another a deeper meaning, behind the sound, another a more flawless technique. The young Saimir Pirgu possesses the lion’s share of the virtues, and an astonishing minimum of the shortcomings, as displayed on his new recording “Il Mio Canto.” His vocal quality is brilliant, sunny, beautiful in the manner of his colleagues Villazon and Flores; His dramatic commitment is similar to Alfredo Kraus; his phrasing is every bit as graceful as Gedda’s, but he stands out among his contemporaries by the ring of truthfulness in his voice, a quality rarer than the most glorious tone or the most impeccable technique.

Pirgu is an intelligent, as well as passionate singer. He is well schooled technically, and although I prefer his reading of Alfredo Germont to that of the rather glib Jonas Kaufman, I feel that the role is a bit too dramatic for him at the present time. His youth is fulfilling the task that rightfully belongs to his technical skill, and overstepping the dynamic limits of one’s voice has consequences as time passes. 

Among the most admirable performances on this disc are Cilea’s 'E la solita storia del pastore', Donizetti’s 'Tombe degli ave miei', and Massenet’s 'Pourquoi me réeiller'. They prove his rightful place among the highest ranks of singers past and present.

Pirgu could not have asked for a more beautiful sounding orchestra than that of the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale, or a more sympathetic and stylistically astute conductor than Speranza Scappucci. 

[Editor's Note: Saimir Pirgu will make his New York City recital debut on Saturday, April 9 at 8:00pm at Merkin Hall, performing selections from his album "Il Mio Canto".  Pirgu will be accompanied by pianist Lucy Arner. Tickets are $20-$30 and may be purchased online or by phone at 212-501-3330]