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Volume 10 Issue 9 - June 2005

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VOCAL AND OPERATIC John

VOCAL AND OPERATIC John Browne - Music from the Eton Choirbook Tallis Scholars; Peter Phillips Gimmell CDGIM 036 The music from the Eton Choirbook is perhaps some of the most sublime in the canon of English Renaissance vocal polyphony, and this recording by the Tallis Scholars makes a powerful and moving case for the musical genius of John Browne, a composer whose name isn't exactly a household word today. The program of this disc comprises five works by Browne (who flourished around 1490), including the two pieces for which he is best known, a Stabat Mater and Salve Regina I. Also included is a Stabat iu.xta for four tenor;; and two basses - and Browne's use of six voices, all within two octaves of each other, makes for an extraordinary richness of texture and sound .. The closing work, a stunning, 8-part 0 Maria Salvatoris, creates a riveting impact from start to finish, making it easy to understand why the compilers of the Eton Choirbook gave this piece pride of place as the first item in the collection. Browne's music is remarkable in many ways - clever harmonies, fluid melodic lines, expressive and varied textures - and blends qualities of detahed austerity and great tenderness in an evocative and mystical way. This is truly a mu­ the airection of Peter Phillips, once· again demonstrate why 'they number amongst the superstar interpreters of Renaissance repertoire for voices. Alison Melville Vivaldi - Bajazet Europa Galante; Fabio Biondi Virgin Classics5 45676 2 Artfully assembled, arranged and adapted by Vivaldi who composed all of the recitatives himself as well as some of the arias, this "musica di autori diversi" Bajazet was first performed in Verona in 1735. It's difficult to imagine assembling as fine a cast as to be found on this recording! Bass-baritone Ildebrando D' Arcangelo (Bajazet), quickly establishes a noble and commanding presence. Soprano Patrizia Ciofi (ldaspe) is capable of delicate purity and the kind of acrobatics normally only associated with alien spacecraft. American countertenor David Daniels (Tamerlano) stands respectably amidst several excellent mezzo-soprani, especially the dramatically intense Marijana Mijanovi' (Asteria), vocally assured Elina Garan· a (Andronico) and the absolutely stunning pyrotechnics of Vivica Genaux (Irene) in her performance of the great castrato Farinelli's signature tune Qua/ guerriero in campo armato. Many listeners are already wellacquainted with Fabio Biondi's vibrant interpretations of Vivaldi's music. Together with a bonus (30- minute) DVD, filmed during the recording last April, offering an opportunity to observe the singers working with Biondi, extensive historical program notes, full libretto with translations, photos of the sing­ sical reflection of 'the many being ers and musicians, this is an amazing package! parts of one whole'. . And the Tallis Scholars, under Frank Nakashima Vivaldi - Virtuoso Cantatas Philippe Jaroussky; Ensemble Artaserse Virgin Classics 5 45721 2 Of all the instruments, voice is the most controversial. Oh°, sure, artists and collectors alike DO get excited by a Stradivari or Steiner violin or cello. It is, however the human instruments that cause fist fights. ·After all, even today, some 30 years after her death, Maria Callas' voice galvanizes the audience. In its time, the vocal colour of the castrato voice had that power over the listening masses. The voice of the castrato apparently had the unique blend of a soprano and countertenor sound, so unique that for the film "Farinelli" the two timbres were digitally "mashed" to create a synthetic equivalent. A new countertenor is on the scene and his voice is likely to evoke emotions on the scale of ·Farinelli. His name is Philippe Jaroussky and his second solo recording is important not only for what it contains (a fantastic rendition of some of Vivaldi's 40 cantatas), but also for what it promises. Mr. Jaroussky is only 25 and just 7 years ago he forsook the violin in favour of voice training. There is already every indication that his wi.ll be a career to be reckoned with. Th flawless technique, effortless delivery and fully controlled breathing, combined with intelligent reading of music, great diction and attention to detail, render each of his recordings almost too perfect. As age and experience add emotional nuance to his singing, I am happy to predict that his will be the "non plus ultra" countertenor voice. And you, a discerning reader of this fine magazine, should get your own copy of this Vivaldi recording, before the listening masses discover Mr. Jaroussky and buy up all the available discs. . Roberl Tomas Schubert - Die schOne Miillerin Jan Kobow; Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano) ATMA ACD 2 2315 Controversy and argument will strain friendships among those who dare play this CD and debate its merits (or transgressions). Berlinborn organist turned tenor, Jan Kobow teams up with fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout to perform M )UNE 1 - )ULY 7 2005

Ill Ill Ill Ill 111 DI Ill Ill Ill what may be the most daring and unconventional Schubert "Miillerin" cycle you've ever heard. Kobow's vocal style immediately suggests that he's an experienced eaṙly music performer. Notes citing his First Prize win at the 1998 International Bach Competition in' Leipzig confirm it. Frequent straight tone singing with transitions to vibrato (gratefully) and use of articulate ornamentation make this "Miillerin" interpretation unlike any yet recorded. Kobow and Bezuidenhout have chosen what they argue is an authentic performance style based on early publications and manuscripts that show a free use of embellishment and improvisation by both singer and accompanist. They take this course with conviction and a high degree of musicality. To their credit, their presentation is artistic and intelligent. While plenty ·of their creative alterations prove tasteful, I'm left wondering whether Kobow's style that repeatedly evokes Schutz and Palestrina rally works for this Romantic cycle of poetry. I do, however, admit that the more I heard the more curious I became to discover how he'd treat the next song. I confess - they hooked me. Whether you end up lunging for the CD player muttering epithets or sit back and explore thi·s most unusual interpretation will be more self-enlightening than a session with a good therapist. Alex Baran EARLY MUSIC AND PERIOD PERFORMANCE She Sweetest when she's Naked Alison Melville (www.early-music.com) Due partly to Scotland's union with England in 1707, the 18th Century was a time of tremendous publishing activity in.Scotland, as the Scots sought to . preserve their cultural heritage. From sources such as James Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion, Captain Simon Fraser's Airs and Melodies Peculiar to the Highlands of Scotland and The Isles, Bewick 's Pipe Tunes and The Gow Collecrion of Scottish Dance Music, Alison Melville has skillfully mined the results of this proliferation, choosing 25 'traditional airs in an educated style' for her fourth recording of solo recorder and flute music. With evocative titles such as Busk ye my bonnie bride, The sneez-wort and A rock and a wee pickle Jon, these tunes provide a glimpse into everyday life of the Scottish folk of this period. As always, Alison Melville's playing is exquisitely executed with warmth, wit and tenderness. Joined by Mary-Katherine Finch, baroque cello; Kirk Elliott, harp and guitar; Ben Grossman, bodhran, tambourine and snare drums and harpsichordists Michael Jarvis, Paul Jenkins, and Charlotte Nediger, these airs, dance tunes, variations and sonatas are performed with the grace, humour and touching sensitivity inherent in the music. So pour yourself a wee draught to have with your Bannocks of Beer Meal and sweetly recollect The Braes of Ballandyne. ,ll:AN'·l'H.l.l'JJ>llB J'\.\lli:-.! LH CYCLOPH Rameau - Les Cyclopes Dianne Wells Trevor Pinnock, harpsichord AvieAV2056 "He is a hard man, brutal, inhuman, miserly, a bad father, bad husband and bad uncle" is the blunt depiction of the great French baroque composer offered in Diderot's Rameau 's Nephew. It is perplexing indeed to reconcile this image of Rameau with the winsome, ever-inventive music to be heard in this excellent program, so full of unexpected turns, exotic wonders, and rustic humour. A highly visible figure as leader of the renowned English Consort for the past three dec_ades and, in John Stainer - The Crucifixion Choir of Clare College. Cambridge 8557624 UNE 1 - ULY 7 2005 47

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