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Volume 15 Issue 8 - May 2010

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Joste. Not for the faint

Joste. Not for the faint of heart, but an exquisiteadventure for those who feel that“Eight is NOT Enough”.We welcome your feedback and invitesubmissions. CDs and comments should besent to: The WholeNote, 503 – 720 BathurstSt. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourageyou to visit our website, www.thewhol-turesincluding direct links to performers,composers and record labels, “buy buttons”for on-line shopping and additional, expandedand archival reviews.VOCAL—David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comFrancesca Caccini – O Viva RosaShannon Mercer; Luc Beauséjour; SylvainBergeron; Amanda KeesmaatAnalekta AN 2 9966erand Florentine Camerata member GiulioCaccini, enjoyed a brilliant career as arenowned performer and composer in theMedici court. Admired by Henry IV ofFrance and Claudio Monteverdi, she wasoften referred to as“La Cecchina” (TheSongbird). Caccini’svocal compositions re-as a singer, incorporatingimpossibly longmelismas and exquisiteornamentations thatfew mere mortals can manage. But suggestthis repertoire, as harpsichordist Luc Beauséjourdid, to a singer like Shannon Mercerand she will set to work and rise beautifullyto the challenge. Not just technically, butemotively as well. For this music also requiresan extremely sensitive interpretationof its delicate sensuality and oftentimes anguishedvulnerability.The repertoire is chosen from Caccini’sIl primo libro delle musiche (1618), and thewere songs likely originally accompanied bytheorbo alone. This recording features a fullercontinuo, with Beauséjour (harpsichord),Sylvain Bergeron (lute, baroque guitar, theorbo)and Amanda Keesmaat (cello) who arefeatured in additional instrumental selections,some by father Giulio. While the liner notesprovide an excellent historical survey of thecomposer, I was a little disappointed that thelyrics and their translation were not included,though there is a note that they are availableon the Analekta website. That being said,this CD is an exquisitely executed offering oftruly rare gems in the vocal repertoire.—Dianne WellsCarissimi – OratoriosLes Voix BaroquesATMA ACD2 2622prisedby the evolutionof early musicperformance practice.After emerging fromthe post-romanticbrine with proto feetand oh-so-strict ideasabout how thingsmust sound, the speciesnow displays an elegance of balance andsensibility that may have brought us to thepinnacle of the art form.Les Voix Baroques is an ensemble ofyoung voices with a remarkable ability tocreate startling colours in ensemble passages.Only artful listening can make this happen– obviously something the members of LesVoix do extremely well. These four Carissimioratorios have far less chorus than solo material,so the shift in texture from solo passagesto harmonically rich part singing isdramatic and highly effective.The singers’ solo work also merits comment.We’ve placed much value on straighttone (vibrato-free) singing for early musicrepertoire, and there’s certainly plenty of itin this recording. Unusual, however, is thefreedom for individual singers to move intocontrast between vocal styles gives emphasisto key moments in a text or musical line. It’sa wonderful effect and feels quite natural.Particularly lovely is Suzie Leblanc’smediatelyrecognizable and exquisitely capturesthe anguish of the plaintive text.The eight member instrumental ensembleis superb in its supportive role and relishesits several orchestral moments. They are remarkablyconsistent in their early music tuning(temperament) teasing us with harmonicintervals placed just slightly askew of whereour modern ear expects them to be.A very satisfying disc… Viva Les VoixBaroques!—Alex BaranMelodiyaMarianne Fiset; Marie-Eve Scarfone;Orchestre Radio-Canada Musique;Jean-Philippe TremblayAnalekta AN 2 9962Ophélie – Lieder et MelodiesMarianne Fiset; Louis-Philippe Marsolais;Michael MahonATMA ACD2 2628disproportionate share of great young vocalists.It could be argued that the commitmentto culture and classical music is much strongerthere and a greater number of competitionsand musical festivals allow the youngnew stars to shine brighter. It is not just afunding issue, however. The artistic sensibilityof both the artists and the audiences thereis different. Frequently, European artistsayinto North America. You can call it a certainje ne sais quoi, but it seems to be working.Case in point – Marianne Fiset. To saythat the young soprano burst onto the sceneis to understate it. Four awards in a youngvocalist category and a Juno nominationof Russian songs and operatic excerpts onthe Analekta label, speak for themselves.On her ATMA disc, “Ophélie”, Fiset lets hervoice shine – literally. Juxtaposed againstthe brilliantly played horn of Louis-PhilippeMarsolais, the young Quebecer’s beautifulinstrument dialogues through a thoughtfulselection of music by Berlioz, Donizetti,Strauss, Schubert and Lachner. The interpretationsare engaged, full of understandingand delicacy and the rare combinationof horn and voice delights the ear. Much asher Juno nomination is well deserved for“Melodiya”, “Ophélie” (recorded 6 monthslater) showcases a young artist whose craft isgetting better with each outing. Bravo!—Robert TomasLive at Wigmore Hall – Songs bySchubert, Wolf, Fauré and RavelSimon Keenlyside; Malcolm Martineau;Wigmore Hall WHLive 0031staged.It is the voice of villains, fathers,and older brothers.The tenor usuallyends up in the spotlightand even in operaswhere the baritoneis the central character,it is as an antihero(Hamlet, RobertOppenheimer in “Dr.54 THEWHOLENOTE.COMMay 1 - June 7, 2010

Atomic”). We are fortunate to live in timeswhen there are several world-class baritonesaround who, aside from making appearanceson stages around the planet also record theirvoices for our enjoyment. I have shared withthe readers my feelings about the brilliantThomas Quasthoff and Gerald Finley, so it’stime to wholeheartedly recommend SimonKeenlyside.During recent performances of AmbroiseThomas’ Hamlet at the MET, Keenlyside inthe title role overcame the insipid set and notfully cooked production and with the powerof his voice transformed the opera into an intimaterecital. Here, on record from WigmoreHall, he offers the Keenlyside treatmentto a sampling of lieder. His voice, asidefrom power and projection, possesses theagreeable timbre that’s impossible to describe,yet instantly recognizable. The singingis effortless, as if it were to him the mostnatural thing, like breathing. Keenlysideworks very well with accompaniment, be ita piano or a full orchestra. Here, MalcolmMartineau deserves a special mention of hisown. And to think, that at one time this giftedsinger was considering a career in zoology,which he studied at Cambridge – the—Robert TomasPer Nørgård – Der gottliche TivoliStadttheater Bern; Dorian KeilhackDacapo 6.220572-73ary2007 how his visit to an exhibition within his own compositionalsensibilities“...I experienced thechaotic art as a mentaldive into a different,dark world – eerie,unpredictable, but fascinatingand aboveDer gottlicheTivoli (The Divine Circus) is best describedin this same manner – the operatic rendi-musicality.This is not easy listening – there are noclear cut operatic arias where the singers canshowcase their virtuosity. In fact, the realoperatic diva here is the percussion-heavy orchestration.The opening prelude (performedsen)is identical to the fourth movement ofThroughout the opera, the six percussionistsin the orchestral ensemble are key players.There are atonal melodies to supportown writings) but the rhythms best describeerartistic periods of his life. Touching isown folksong melody at the end of opera.The vocal soloists, under the directionof conductor Dorian Keilhack, are superb inthis high quality live 2008 performance fromStadttheater Bern. Der gottliche Tivoli is aof a troubled artist and the curious composerwho was moved by his artistry.—Tiina KiikEARLY MUSIC & PERIOD PERFORMANCEViola D’AmoreHélène PlouffeAnalekta AN 2 9959the complication of resonating strings, iscrafted as if it were a viol but is playedlike a violin, and is the size of the alreadyexistingviola. And yet it survived throughoutthe Baroque and has even inspired moderncomposers.Hélène Plouffe’s selection shows how sensuousthis instrumentis, notably in von Biber’sPartia VII, withits soothing praeludium,allamande andaria. The skill it requiresis demonstratedin the concluding ariettavariata.If the viola d’amore is rare in Northlink between recorder and clarinet. HélènePlouffe did so and Graupner’s Trio in F majoris the result, the allegro and vivace aboveall expressing both instruments’ qualities.Bach’s St. John Passion allows us to seethe viola d’amore supporting the humanvoice but those wishing to hear the instrumentat its plainest will enjoy Ah que l’amour,an extract from Milandre’s Méthode facilepour la viole d’amour. This exercise provesthat the instrument does indeed have an individualsound.And so to Petzold’s Partita in F major, acollection of early baroque dances. As withthe Milandre piece, the music for solo violad’amore played here best shows off what theinstrument can bring to its audience, particularlywith Hélène Plouffe’s interpretations.—Michael SchwartzBiber – Mensa Sonora; BattaliaBaroque Band; Garry ClarkeCedille CDR 90000 116provide music meant to be ignored! Suchis the case for Biber’s collection of genteelpieces for dining, the six suites for stringsentitled Mensa Sonora (Sonorous Table)served up in 1680 for the gustatory delectationof his then employer, the Archbishop ofSalzburg. Not initially expecting anythingspecial, I was pleasantly surprised at thecunning of Biber’s art. He manages by dintof the off-kilter asymmetries of his melodiccraft to project a sub-text of sophisticationcompletely over the head of his patron. Bibermarvellously subverts the conventions of thegenre, concluding thewhole enterprise witha disjointed denouementworthy of Haydn.He proves himself avisionary as well withthe celebrated, outlandishBattalia in 10parts of 1673 in whichagain until centuries later: the snap-pizzicatoof Bartok; playing with the wood of the bowà la Berlioz; and, in the loopy inebriation ofa scene depicting drunken soldiers, the polytonalityand collage technique of CharlesIves. As director and concertmaster GerryClarke mentions in his liner notes, Biber(1644-1704), the Bohemian-Austrian violinvirtuoso and composer, was regarded by PaulHindemith to be “the most important Baroquecomposer before Bach”, yet it is onlyin recent decades that his music has seen aoqueBand, formed in 2007, plays this musicto perfection with a highly effective blend ofsubtlety and precision. Truly delicious!—Daniel FoleyBerlioz: Symphonie Fantastique op.14;Le Carnaval RomainAnima Eterna Brugge; Jos van ImmerseelZIG-ZAG CD ZZT100101groups’ tackling post 1800 repertoire. AlthoughI am not about to change my preju-ingimpressed me as something very special.The uniqueness of this performance is not sojust because of the period instruments; conductorvan Immerseelbrings a freshapproach in colour,tempo, balance, articulation,phrasingand dynamics.For rabid fans ofthis symphony (myselfincluded) the ex-is startling. The presentation is so transparentthat details of the scoring, invariably obscuredin modern performances, are revealed,Berlioz was a peerless innovative genius. component? The Anima Eterna Orchestra,particularly the winds, are superb, playingwith joie de vivre, gorgeous sound andbeautiful tone colours. As a group they createan irresistible, luminous texture throughoutthe work. Listeners will be surprised tohear, not the usual bell sounds in the WitchesSabbath but the sustained piano chordspiano strings blend with the orchestra to solemneffect adding a new sense of gravitaswith a sobering subterranean effect, quitedifferent from the mood of the tolling bells.Without any doubt, Van Immerseel andhis group daringly demonstrate the original-May 1 - June 7, 2010 THEWHOLENOTE.COM 55

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