“Friar Alessandro: Songs from Assisi”
César Franck: Panis Angelicus, FWV 61, opus 12
Daniel L. Schutte: Here I am, Lord
Donovan Leitch: Fratello Sole Sorella Luna
John Newton: Amazing Grace
Steven Baker: Pater Noster
Sebastian Temple: Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
Paul Mealor: Le Lodi di Dio Altissimo
Franz Schubert: Ave Maria, D. 839, opus 52, n° 6
Reverend Domenico Machetta: Resta con Noi, Signore, La Sera
Ariel Ramírez: Kyrie
Jean Sibelius: Con Te, Gesù
John Rutter: A Gaelic Blessing
George Frideric Handel: O Mio Signor
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Ave Verum Corpus, K. 618
Francesco Durante: Vergin Tutto Amor
Pietro Mascagni: Sancta Maria
Alessandro Stradella: Aria da Chiesa (Pietá Signore) – Agnus Dei
Johann Sebastian Bach/Charles Gounod: Ave Maria
Friar Alessandro Brustenghi (Tenor), The London Studio Orchestra, Sally Herbert (Conductor), Camerata Ducale, Guido Rimonda (Conductor), Orchestra, Steven Baker (Conductor)
Recording: Cathedral, Assisi, Italy (2012, 2013, 2015) – 76’25
Decca Records # B0026327-02 – Booklet in English (Distributed by Verve Label Group)
Always dreaming of being a percussionist, Alessandro Brustenghi began to learn piano and organ at the early age of nine. Though music had always been an integral part of childhood, he was forever tugged by conflict: continue to live in the secular world or seek answers buried inside a deeper spiritual truth. With a strong belief of God and continuous thoughts of patron St. Francis of Assisi’s journey, an eventual epiphany would surface. Despite many presupposing a diminutive voice, the friary would soon discover Friar Alessandro as a man possessing a heavenly gift, the resultant revealed through hard work, introspection and divine intervention.
After the release of three successful CDs, Songs from Assisi is a compilation of earlier recordings that are being channeled into an upcoming PBS special slated for later this month.
The Franciscan’s achingly angelic timbre broadens with vast outreach and a heart of gold. The offering of this crossover artist is varied and richly gathered especially when the music is accompanied by lush background orchestration (at times with subtle and not so subtle choral responses) under direction by Sally Herbert, Guido Rimonda and Steven Baker.
What draws us to the album is variety: there’s a sampling of familiar staples (i.e. Schubert’s and Gounod’s/Bach’s Ave Maria, John Newton’s Amazing Grace) interspersed with more obscure pieces (i.e. Ariel Ramírez’s deepened Kyrie), but, overall, there is a slight and permeable contemporary edge.
Known for love of opera, this facet of Friar Alessandro’s recital is beautifully rendered in Pietro Mascagni’s Sancta Maria, an extraction of the Intermezzo from the composer’s Cavalleria Rusticana. Here we find an appropriate, unhesitant forward pacing, light in persuasion and wholesome to the core. Horn entrée (and throughout) adds a degree of modernity to Con Te, Gesù, the beautiful filiation from Sibelius’ symphonic poem, Finlandia.
Indeed, Friar Alessandro can evoke emotional responses from each and every one of these compositions. Majesty reigns avec authenticité in Franck’s Panis Angelicus yet the pomp is left at the front door only to focus on organic simplicity while South African Sebastian Temple’s Make Me a Channel of Your Peace expresses mightily.
No matter the level of religious flair, Friar Alessando molds well the music with dignified optimism, humility and embrace...the timing of this approach couldn’t be better positioned in a world of troubled times.
Friar Alessandro Website