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Volume 17 Issue 9 - June 2012

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DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS

DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDEditor’s CornerDAVID OLDSWell once again in my zealous desire to make a dent in the backlog of wonderfulnew releases received I have assigned too many titles to our reviewers and leftinsufficient space for my own musings. So I will simply take this opportunity towelcome jazz columnist Stuart Broomer to these pages. Since Geoff Chapman’s retirementfrom “It’s Our Jazz” some months ago we have been falling behind on news from the localscene and I am very pleased that Broomer has agreed to come on board to address the issue.He’s written about music for The Globe and Mail, Toronto Life and numerous specialistpublications, among them Cadence, DownBeat, Musicworks, New York City Jazz Record,Paris Transatlantic and Signal to Noise. Broomer’s book Time and Anthony Braxton appearedin 2009 from Mercury Press and his column “Ezz-thetics” appears regularly atwww.pointofdeparture.org. His liner essays have appeared on CDs by musicians from over20 countries and he is a former editor of Coda: The Journal of Jazz and Improvised Music.This month marks the inauguration of his WholeNote column “Jazz, eh?” and I think youwill agree that it is a welcome addition.We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sentto: The WholeNote, 503–720 Bathurst St., Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourage you tovisit our website thewholenote.com where you can find added features including directlinks to performers, composers and record labels, “buy buttons” for online shopping andadditional, expanded and archival reviews.—David Olds, DISCoveries Editor, discoveries@thewholenote.comErabena (Cristiana Arcari) who is disguisedfor most of the opera as a squire, Eumete.Roberta Invernizzi plays both Cleria, theobject of love for several characters, but alsoappropriately, the goddess Venus.This performance was filmed at the TeatroMalibran in Venice, October 14, 2008. Thealready complex plot is not helped by thecuts of several scenes — even so it still clocksin at 150 minutes and is on 2 DVDs. The setsvary from timeless to odd; the magic urn tobe destroyed (see Alcina) is represented by afew large green balloons; the nymphs whohunt with Cleria appear to be flappers fromthe ’20s, not exactly helpful in the forests ofCyprus! There is also stripping as an expressionof intense desire, crudely at odds withthe glorious music. It is good to hear theduet “Ai baci, al letto” in its original context:when Cavalli was being “Leppardized” forGlyndebourne and everything had to bealtered to a two-act format, this piece wassung by Ormindo and Erisbe as they embarkedon their getaway ship just before thepicnic break! Beautiful, sensuous, but notthe thing to speed one across the seas.Even with a less than stellar staging, thisis an important addition to the repertoireand improves with repeated hearings.—Duncan ChisholmVOCALPurcell – Love’s MadnessDorothée Mields; Lautten CompagneyBerlin; Wolfgang KatschnerCarus 83.371!!Welcome to theantidote for thosewho believe thatPurcell’s workscomprise overornate,highly theatricaloperas. Therewas another side toPurcell suppressedfor many (notably Victorian) years.This is no compilation of songs for lovesickswains snubbed by ice-cold maidens. Itgives ample examples of the “mad songs” thatemerged in 17th century England, as musicianswere inspired by the sometimes tenuousdivision between sane and insane. Thisis demonstrated by Dorothée Mields’ stridentperformance of Purcell’s Bess of Bedlam and‘Tis women makes us love, two of severalsuch songs in this anthology. Her interpretationsleave no one in any doubt as to theamount of insanity these songs express!Then there are the more conventionalpieces by Purcell: the songs from Didoand Aeneas and from the musical theatreproductions he made his own, theexpertly-played consort pieces, e.g. theFantazia of 1680, and O, Solitude sungwith a purity reminiscent of Alfred Deller’scountertenor version.Finally, traditional and often anonymoussongs complete this highly varied 31-track(!)selection. Thomas Ravenscroft’s The ThreeRavens comes with imaginative recorderplaying which conveys just how touchingand moving this ballad is.Yes, an introduction to Purcell’s unknownside and to the “mad song” but a not inaccurateappetizer of English 17th century music.—Michael SchwartzCavalli – La virtù de’strali d’AmoreEuropa Galante; Fabio BiondiNaxos 2.110614-15!!Cavalli is stillunderestimated asan opera composer.He was supremelylucky in his librettistsand achievednew heights withGiovanni Faustiniand his family.This was the first of ten operas which includedCalisto, Ormindo and greatest of allL’Egisto. Faustini took elements of Greekand Roman mythology and wove them intooriginal allegorical dramas. Here the basicplot involves stealing Cupid’s (Amore’s)arrows to humble him and teach him touse his powers more responsibly. This plotinvolves Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter andSaturn but soon intertwines with good andbad magic, and a confused pair of royallovers. As in the original staging, there isa lot of doubling and tripling of parts exceptfor the excellent main voices: Pallante(Juan Sancho), Meonte (Filippo Adami) andHandel – Il Pastor FidoLa Nuova Musica;David BatesHarmonia Mundi HMC 907585.86!!Unlike many baroquecomposers,Handel thought inacts, not scenes, andwas singular in hispursuit of dramaticbalance and pace.He worked on threecomplete versions ofIl Pastor Fido, the other two printed as “thesecond” and “the third edition.” This welcomerecording is of the first setting whichpremiered on St. Cecilia’s Day, November 22,1712. The plot derives from a famous pastoralplay by Guarini, but the libretto (like manyof Handel’s early operas for London) probablywas adapted by Rossi from a Frenchsource: there is a scene with a garland notin Guarini, but occurring in contemporaryFrench pastorals. The chopped three-act version(from Guarini’s five acts) needs someexplanation. This was given in a page-long“Argument” only a third of which is givenwith this recording. Similarly the detailedstage directions are absent. Why? Add tothis some bad translations. When the hunterSilvio cries out “Lancio il mio dardo” andwounds Dorinda, he is throwing his spear,not shooting an arrow. The boast is that thisis a “world premiere recording.” It is not.That was done by Cetra with il Quartetto diMilano directed by Ennio Gerelli long agoand amazingly with all the voices at theright pitch!60 thewholenote.com June 1 – July 7, 2012

The cast is excellent. They have chosenstylish ornaments for the da capos with realtrills not just extended vibrato. Lucy Croweis especially clear and moving as the longsufferingAmarilli and Anna Dennis as thelovesick self-sacrificing Mirtillo, revealed asthe faithful shepherd of the title. LisandroAbadie, a resonant bass-baritone makes anall too brief third act appearance as the priestTirenio pronouncing Diana’s divine plan.Katherine Manley is lively and devious as thescheming Eurilla.The tempi are uneven: surely the finalchorus is not a dirge! Nonetheless, when hegets it right, David Bates can be magical.The box is worth having for an aria in Act 1“Mi lasci, mi fuggi” for Dorinda (MadeleineShaw) —a perfect example of Handel’s musicaldrama and his ability to probe humanfrailties. One final comment on the numberof orchestral players: this is one of the fewrecordings that gets it about right but is stilllight on the strings.—Duncan ChisholmSchubert – SchwanengesangMatthias Goerne; Christoph EschenbachHarmonia Mundi HMC 902139.40!!This posthumouscollection ofSchubert lieder is afavourite for singerswho want the expressivevariety thata cycle of themedpoetic texts from asingle pen might notoffer. The creative outpouring of Schubert’sfinal year included numerous songs that hisbrother assembled for publication. UnlikeWinterreise or Die schöne Müllerin whosetexts by Müller are more focused around aspecific story, Schwanengesang representstexts by three different poets on a richly diverseset of ideas.The real surprise in this recording is notthat baritone Matthias Goerne presentsanother flawless performance with pianistChristoph Eschenbach, or that he shows impeccablemastery over the emotive range ofmaterial, or that with his enormous voice henever over-sings the intimate requirementsof the salon. The real surprise lies in the companiondisc with Eschenbach’s performanceof the Sonata D960.Serious Schubertians love this work forits tenderness, harmonic depth and melodicsimplicity. This sonata is free of studiedcomplexity or artifice. The writing is directand aims at some target deep within thesoul. Was Schubert conscious of his end?Is the sweet melancholy the lingering painover Beethoven’s death only months earlier?Eschenbach seems to know the answer,playing unashamedly with full conviction,drawing from these pages a unique statementunlike any you have heard before. Heis interpretively wise to Schubert’s phrasingneeds, his clever switchbacks over only partialrestatements of his principle themes. Heis no less clever and wise than the composerhimself. This powerful combination createsa rare masterpiece performance you simplymust own.—Alex BaranVerdi – Les Vêpres SiciliennesBarbara Haveman; Burkhardt Fritz;Alejandro Marco-Burmester; Balint Szabo;Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra andChoir; Paolo CarignaniOpus Arte OA 1060 D; OA BD7092D!!This fine newrelease in digitalsplendour is a perfectexample of howunder the hand ofa talented directoran opera can beupdated and evenimproved with arevolutionary concept. Revolutionary indeed.The opera is all about revolution, inthis case the uprising of the Siciliani againstFrench oppressors in 1282. How ironic anddaring that Verdi prepared this Frenchversion for a Paris audience in 1855. But ofcourse his mind was on Italy’s fight for freedomand unification.The Grand Opera tradition that Verdi laidhis hands on with variable success mustinclude a ballet and so this version does,making the opera almost five hours long.What Christof Loy of Salzburg fame doeswith it is a re-enactment of the protagonists’childhoods which enlightens the ratherconfusing plot and keeps the action moving.Minimalistic but strong sets, simpleprops like chairs scattered around, moderncostumes used as a dramatic device (theFrench in dinner jackets, the natives injeans and loose shirts, Hélène the heroinein a man’s suit and tie) and an overall greycolour scheme all form an artistically unifiedconcept.Add to this a group of dedicated, enthusiasticsingers, Barbara Haveman’s glorioussoprano, Burkhard Fritz (the tenor’s vocalacrobatics stand out), a fine chorus alwaysso important in Verdi’s operas and a young,formidably talented and dynamic conductor,Paolo Carignani, who brought the housedown in COC’s Tosca this February. It’s awin-win situation with the immortal Verdiemerging as triumphant even with one of hisless successful but, in this production, verysoul-fulfilling operas.— Janos GardonyiI Saw EternityElora Festival Singers; Noel EdisonNaxos 8.572812!!The Elora Festival Singers continues itshistory of collaboration with Canadiancomposers in this strikingly beautiful recording.Four of the selections on this discwere composed expressly for this choir, andthese, as well as theother selections, arewell served by thechoir’s pitch-perfectand artful delivery.In the title track byLeonard Enns, weare struck by thepassages which incorporatea layering of voices that build andcascade in awe of a profound experience.Peter Tiefenbach’s Nunc Dimittis is peacefulin character, with a gentle, melodic interplayof voices with the piano, played with lovingsensitivity by Leslie De’Ath, who also evokesthe shimmering movement of water in theAgnus Dei from Glenn Buhr’s Richot Mass.Organist Michael Bloss both supports andenlivens Paul Halley’s Bring us, O Lord God.In Ruth Watson Henderson’s unaccompaniedMissa Brevis, upper voices maintain aconsistently pure, even tone, resulting in atreble-like quality reminiscent of that in atraditional men and boys choir. The excellentcontrol of soprano voices is also evidentin Craig Galbraith’s setting of Let all MortalFlesh Keep Silence with the dolce and pianissimodelivery of top notes. On a text byRabindranath Tagore, Marjan Mozetich’sFlying Swans is written with a wonderfullymystic accompaniment of cello and clarinet,which features drone, ostinato and solopassages, some of which evoke the flappingof wings and trumpeting of the swans, allexecuted brilliantly by John Marshman andStephen Pierre.—Dianne WellsEARLY & PERIOD PERFORMANCETune thy Musicke to thy HartStile antico; FretworkHarmonia Mundi HMU 807554!!Tudor and Jacobean music for private devotionhas long been neglected by early musicperformers. Here is a selection of compos-June 1 – July 7, 2012thewholenote.com 61

Volume 26 (2020- )

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