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Volume 16 Issue 2 - October 2010

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Alessandro Scarlatti –

Alessandro Scarlatti – Vesprodella Beata VergineNederlands Kamerkoor;Harry van der KampATMA ACD2 2533VOCALWhether or notyounger composersin Scarlatti’s daydescribed his musicas boring or oldfashioned,Scarlatti’sabilities wereacknowledged byno less than PopeClement XI and Queen Christina of Sweden.For many years, Scarlatti was not well-paidand he moved from city to city before returningto Naples. This moving around isCD; they were dispersed in several Europeanroughly be dated from 1703 to 1708 and 1714to 1720 when Scarlatti’s age ranged from 43to 60.In the opening track, Dixit Dominum,soloists Barbara Borden and Margrit Stokadd a celestial quality to Scarlatti’s setting.Barbara Borden’s name features throughout– she is a mainstay of this recording. Eventhe shortest and, dare one say it, hurried settingssuch as Laetatus sum and Nisi Dominus(Psalms 121 and 126) are infused with joy;the combined voices of the NederlandsKamerkoor are given free rein. Perhaps mostuplifting, however, is Ave Maria Stella, itsverses with their intimate pleas interpretedclearly and intensely by smaller groups ofsingers.All in all, this is an attractive and variedcollection of Scarlatti’s settings of vespers.The criticisms made against him by his contemporariesare answered here, whether ornot he is a fashionable composer nowadaysor he preferred not to change his style.—Michael SchwartzRossini – L’Italiana in AlgeriJennifer Larmore; Bruce Ford; SimoneAlaimo; Alessandro Corbelli; Orchestraand Choirs of the Opera Nationalde Paris; Bruno CampanellaArtHaus Musik 107 127 jorsuccess in 1813,in Venice, an operathat the 21 year oldcomposer dashed offin a month is nowavailable in at least 3video performances.Although the onefrom the Met in 1983 with Marilyn Horneis still a strong contender, this production in1998 by Andrei Serban from the resplendentPalais Garnier opera house must take precedencewith its imaginative new stage productionand high musical values.How to describe it? Certainly not “operatic”in the traditional sense and perhaps in-timesacrobatic movement, dazzling primarycolours and grotesque, oversize, cartoonishfeatures that may overwhelm the audience atthe performance unfolds.A comic masterwork through andthrough, it is in this opera that Rossininales“Pria di dividerci da voi, signore”where 7 different voices mix and create totalpandemonium.The superb cast includes the protagonistAmerican mezzo Jennifer Larmore whotruly inherits the role from Marilyn Hornewith comic, spontaneous acting, a wonderfulvoice and a stunning stage presence. Iam not saying she steals the show becausebass buffo Simone Alaimo as the Bey of Algiershopelessly pining for her is even morehilarious, and the pair of them with a strongchemistry simply take the bit and run with it.Necessary to complete the triangle, the tenorBruce Ford looks refreshingly different fromthe typical insipid Rossini tenor with hisbushy hair, a beard and a build that makeshim believable as a lover to the likes of MsLarmore. Being a famous Rossini tenor hesiturasof his part. Italian conductor BrunoCampanella has the perfect feel for Rossiniwith ideal tempi and a light, sensitive touch.He outshines James Levine in the competingMet set.—Janos GardonyiVerdi – AriasSondra Radvanovsky; Philharmoniaof Russia; Constantine OrbelianDelos DE 3404There is alwaysa raging debate inthe operatic circles,whether somevoices are “compos-according to crediblesources, Ms.Radvanovsky is “atrue Verdian, with a big, juicy, vibrato-richsound” (The Times). While I am not sureone would want the singer to limit her repertoireto Verdi alone, it is true that her renditionsof Leonora’s lament from La Forzadel Destino or Elena’s Bolero from I VespriSicilaini sound spot-on.Her career so far has made her a popularchoice for the home stage of The MetropolitanOpera, but Covent Garden, ParisOpera, La Scala, Vienna State Opera andLyric Opera in Chicago come knocking fre-inesthat Ms. Radvanovsky has entered, butshe manages to sound both impressive andentirely original. This is to say, while gettingenraptured by her nuanced and powerfulperformances, one never thinks “Shesounds just like… .” The best news is thatwe will get to judge for ourselves, when Ms.Radvanovsky makes her COC debut this fallin Aida! In this upcoming test, of sorts, westand a chance to cheer not only a great soprano,but also one of “Toronto’s own,” asMs. Radvanovsky and her husband reside indiosbetrays a bit of typical Delos “over-ambianced”recording, but this minor quibbleshould not deter opera lovers from picking itup – it may in come handy during the autograph-signingsession at the COC.—Robert TomasConcert note: The COC’s Aida runs October2 to November 5 at the Four Seasons Centrefor the Performing Arts.Mahler – Songs with OrchestraSusan Graham; Thomas Hampson;San Francisco Symphony;Michael Tilson ThomasSFS 821936-0036-2 (SACD)Mahler – Lieder auf“Des Knaben Wunderhorn”Christiane Oelze; Michael Volle;Gürzenich-Orchester Köln; Markus StenzOEHMS Classics OC 657 (SACD)Michael TilsonThomas brings theSan Francisco Symphony’sdecadelong self-producedMahler cycle to aclose with a curiouslylow-key albumof orchestralsongs featuring baritone Thomas Hampsonand mezzo-soprano Susan Graham. Hampson,widely regarded as the leading Mahlersinger of his generation, holds the lion’sshare of this disc in concert performances ofMahler’s Songs of a Wayfarertionsfrom The Youth’s Magic Horn, whilethe equally eminent Graham (though lessof Mahler’s settings of the poems of FriedrichRückert. Hampson has recorded Mahlermany times before and has not particularityoutshone himself in these performances,which strike me as conspicuously mannered– one might even say hammy – and not entirelyaccurate. Graham’s luxuriant interpretationof the Rückert songs makes a muchstronger impression, save for a few nervousmoments when she is forced into her upperregister. Tilson Thomas and his engineersskillfully balance the orchestra in deferenceto the voices and, quite unlike earlier installmentsin this cycle, his tempos are leisurelyand relatively rigid. Those looking for merebeauty in singing may be safely assured of acomfortable evening with the superstars.I have nothing but praise for the latest62 thewholenote.comOctober 1 - November 7, 2010

Mahler recording byMarkus Stenz andCologne’s venerableGürzenich orchestra.The thirdentry in the OehmsClassics projectedMahler cycle followsestimable performancesof the Fourth and Fifth symphonieswith Mahler’s orchestral settings of 14songs from the 1808 folk poetry collectionThe Youth’s Magic Horn. Soprano ChristianeOelze’s laser-sharp pitch and purity of toneconvey the down-home sentiments of theserustic texts with a beguiling freshness, whileMichael Volle is an admirable foil with hissoldier’s laments such as Reveille and TheLittle Drummer Boy. While Stenz is rarelyhistrionic in the Bernstein manner, he hasa way of gently moulding a phrase or timinga silence that is equally effective. Stenz’sapproach is in many ways reminiscent ofGeorge Szell’s classic 1968 recording, includingthe fact that both singers perform indialogue in certain selections, an idea thatevidently never occurred to Mahler himself.The sound of the orchestra, recorded in studio,is outstanding in both execution and recording,with the horns in particular soundingboth youthful and magical.—Daniel FoleyIn Good CompanyCanadian Chamber ChoirIndependent CCCCD001www.canadianchamberchoir.caThe CanadianChamber Choir,under Artistic DirectorJulia Davids,has aptly namedGood Company.”Why? Really only arespectful musicalenvironment can create the cohesive singing,beautiful tone, and intelligent musicality evidenton this release. Even more remarkableis that this is even humanly possible consideringthat the members are spread acrossCanada, and the group only gets together torehearse in intense short duration workshopsa few times a year.This all-Canadian ten composer releaseencompasses a variety of styles and vocalieOlson’s Chantez à l’Eternel for its etherealquality. Allan Rae’s Mvt #5 Allegro fromKeltic Suite is a rhythmic departure from theusual lush choral sound. The hilarious Figuresde danse by Lionel Daunais has thechoir kicking up its heels. The choir’s commission,At Sunset by composer and choirbass Jeff Enns is a tad lengthy but does utilizeCCC’s vocal ensemble strengths, whilehighlighting special guest soloist mezzo-sopranoChristianne Rushton. The other specialguests on the release, cellist Sehee Kim andpianist Joel Tranquilla, are also excellent ontheir respective tracks.I was really surprised at the superb qualityof the Canadian Chamber Choir. Thisgroup can sing lush harmonics and independentcontrapuntal lines with equal expertise.Anyone even remotely interested inwelcome guest in their musical homes.—Tiina KiikEric Whitacre – Choral MusicElora Festival Singers; Noel EdisonNaxos 8.559677This recordingwill appeal to admirersof well-craftedchoral music thatjudiciously incorporatescontemporarymusical techniques.American composerEric Whitacre(b. 1970) has cultivated a style where addednotes and tone clusters are the norm inhigher registers. With careful attention topitch content, texture, register, and dynamics,seldom is an unattractive sound heard.Though based in innovations by other composersgreat and small, Whitacre’s musicshows special artistry in focusing techniqueto ends. In Her Sacred Spirit Soars, simplythickening and thinning sonorities as pitchesrise and fall conveys the sacred spirit of themusic’s long-breathed motion. I particularlylike the mystical sense in Lux aurumque(Light of Gold), about which the composeraptly speaks of spiritual processes: “blossoming”and “surrendering” to light.There are effective piano-accompaniedsettings, of E.E. Cummings’ little tree withits ecstatic ending, and of Octavio Paz’s LittleBirds which includes whistling, repeatedconsonants and quasi-aleatoric (random)singing. I prefer the sensitivity to mood inthe short lyrical works; When David Heardand percussion-enhanced Leonardo Dreamsof his Flying Machine have longer minimalistNoel Edison’s splendid Elora FestivalSingers are up to Eric Whitacre’s every challenge.Perfectly pitched, vibrato-less sopranosin multiple parts produce sounds ofwonderful life. All sections contribute to thetour-de-force with well-balanced sonorousblocks and long-decaying tones evoking reverberantspace. Which brings me to closeingby Bonnie Silver and Norbert Kraft ofthis important recording.—Roger KnoxEARLY, CLASSICAL & BEYONDMozart – Piano Concertos 22 & 23Daniel Barenboim; BavarianRSO; Rafael KubelikBR Klassik 900709Mozart - Piano Concertos 20 & 27Evgeny Kissin; Kremerata BalticaEMI Classics 6 26645 2Was it AntonRubinstein who oncesaid “Eternal sunshinethy name isMozart?” Whoeverit was would undoubtedlyapplaudthe addition of twonew Mozart pianoconcerto recordingsto the already vastnumber available,performed by twopianists now consideredto be amongthe world’s greatest.At the age of 67,Daniel Barenboimmay be considered one of the veterans of theconcert-stage, as both pianist and conductor.His newest offering, on the BR Klassik label,features performances from the archives ofconcertos No.22 and 23 along with the BavarianRadio Symphony under the directionof Rafael Kubelik. Concerto No.22, writtenin Vienna in 1785, is a joyful and optimisticwork, and here the music is treatedin a fresh and engaging manner. The tem-brisk, doesn’t detract from the performance,while the second movement Andante and thepairing between soloist and orchestra. ConcertoNo.23 from 1786, was recorded live,therenhanced by the excellent sound quality.Clean and dynamic, it’s as good as youtook so long to release these exemplary performances,recorded in 1970, but they werewell worth the wait. This disc is a gem!No matter what we may think of EvgenyKissin’s personal eccentricities, there is nodenying that he has long been regarded asEMI recording, with concertos No.20 andconductor along with the Kremerata Baltica.Here, Kissin, who is more renowned forhis interpretations of romantic-period repertoire,proves that Mozart, too, can be treatedin a more passionate manner than is usuallyencountered. From the opening measures ofthe Concerto No.20 – one of only two Mozartwrote in a minor key - Kissin easily capturesthe dark and forbidding mood of thistempestuous music. His approach is boldOctober 1 - November 7, 2010 63

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