6 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 2 - October 2005

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HJ D/SC(11'Jldli-i CD REVIEWS VOCAL AND OPERA Sleep, Wayward Thoughts (Elizabethan and Jacobean songs about sleep) The Musicians in Ordinary Independent MIO 005 ( What a good theme for a compilation of songs by John Dowland, Thomas Campion and others, and how fitting for a dark autumn day! Living in an age that was especially fond of puns and metaphors, these composers mined all possible analogies between restorative nightly sleep and the eternal rest that comes to all of us. (Probably the most familiar song in the collection is "O Deathe rock me a sleepe", popularly attributed to the unfortunate Anne Boleyne.) Other songs play on the association of beds with both peaceful rest and passion. For instance, in the disc's title song by Dowland, one lover lies sleeping while the other burns with desire: "So sleeps my love, and yet my love does wake." Soprano soloist Hallie Fishel has a youthful-sounding voice of no little power, and gives an intelligent, feeling interpretation of the lyrics. Instead of going for a very clear, pale sound, Fishel uses considerable vibrato - well, and successfully - to sustain the long-held notes so beloved of composers of the period. She is most capably partnered by lutenist John Edwards. One quibble: it's a little hard to hear some of the words; probably a fault of the recording rather than Fishel's diction. It would have been nice if the lyrics had been included in the liner notes. Sarah B. Hood Concert Note: Musicians in Ordinary launch their season and the new CD at Heliconian Hall Oct 1. Alessandro Scarlatti: Stabat Mater Emma Kirkby; Daniel Taylor; Theatre of Early Music ATMA ACD2 2237 Alessandro Scarlatti remains renowned for his operatic works and songs, frequently recorded by the likes of Cecilia Bartoli. It is however sacred music that was the bread and butter of his career. The commissions from Roman cardinals and OLD WINE, NEW BOTTLES: Fine Old Recordings Re-Released Unfortunately, to those less informed listeners who insist only on pleasant tunes from Mediterranean composers, any Schoenberg score may as well be the inscription over the gates to hell. Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder (The Songs of Gurre), began as settings of the romantic text by Jens Peter Jacobsen. In its final form, the score calls for a very large, augmented orchestra, several choirs, six soloists, and a battery of unusual 'instruments' including chains! In essence, this ultra-romantic, tune-filled paean to the triumph of love is a Tristan-like melodrama, set in 11th century Denmark where after a night of supernatural events there comes a glorious, triumphant sunrise unequalled anywhere else in music. Its 1913 premier in Vienna was an over-the-top triumph, the like of which the composer would never enjoy again. The first recording was of a live performance conducted by Leopold Stokowski in Philadelphia on 11 April, 1932, which until 1954 was the only way one would ever get to hear the work. Three of the 18 different performances issued on CD have recently been reissued. Primarily of interest to archivists, the 1953 mono recording by Schoenberg's pupil Rene Leibowitz has appeared on a superior transfer from Preiser [90575, 2 discs] . Robert Craft's very fine 2001 recording for Koch with the Philharmonia has re-appeared on Naxos [8.557518, 2 discs] . Craft's is a fine achievement indeed and could be a first choice if one had not heard the sensational 1986 performance from Leipzig conducted by Herbert Kegel. After hearing the Kegel, any of the others sound like a walkthrough. A subjective opinion, of course, but I have paid particular attention to every single recording as it appeared. All I know about Kegel is that he was a conductor who was also a communist and who committed suicide after the Berlin wall came down. The unique quality of this splendid performance is that the story line and events are absolutely believable ... the soloists and all concerned are simply that convincing. T he recording easily accommodates the immense forces on stage. The downside, or perhaps not, is that it is now part of an eight CD package [82124 02752] devoted to The New Vienna School from Berlin Classics, which includes Moses und Aron, Wozzeck, the Berg violin concerto, etc, and a disc of Webern all conducted by Kegel. Every performance is of the highest quality. princes kept him comfortable and provided the means for the "other" music. So when in 1724 (one year before Scarlatti's death) the Order of Cavallieri della Virgine dei Dolori commissioned a setting of Stabat Mater, it was for the composer a return to the roots of his success. Incidentally, the same order commissioned the most famous Stabat Mater - that of Pergolesi, just 12 years later. The hymn itself dates to the 13th century, being composed by a Franciscan monk, one Jacopone da Todi. The painful tale of Virgin Mary suffering under the cross where her son dies, received wonderful treatments from Vivaldi, Rossini, Josquin des Pres in the early period and Penderecki in recent Stravinsky recorded Le Sacre and Petrouchka several times, but an esteemed conductor he was not. His amanuensis and performing assistant, Robert Craft, recorded several Stravinsky scores under the master's eye, including a Le Sacre in Russia which Stravinsky stated to be the best ever. Starting in 1991 , Craft began recording Stravinsky for Music Masters and then Koch. Thankfully, Naxos has acquired masters from both companies and is re-coupling to ensure maximum playing time. Craft's Le Sacre with The London Symphony Orchestra is coupled Le Rossignol with The Philharmonia and excellent soloists (8 .55750 l]. The compel ling Le Sacre is extremely dynamic with well sprung rhythms and virtuoso playing. Craft uses the 1947 version which Stravinsky created to preserve his copyright. Incidentally, there is no original 1913 manuscript because when it was given to Stravinsky half a dozen years later to correct, he had fresh thoughts about some parts and re-composed them. Some composers are like that. Naxos has released several discs already with more to come. Available now are Oedipus Rex and Les Noces (8.557499]; The Firebird, in the first recording of the original 1910 score coupled with the 1947 Petrouchka [8.557500]; the three Greek ballets, Apollo, Agan, and Orpheus [8 .557502]. All four are exemplary performances and recordings and are highly recommendable. In the LP era, Caedmon was the home of the spoken arts. The company was bought by book publisher Harper-Collins who proceeded to discontinue everything. A Child's Christmas in Wales made it to CD but that was it. Naxos is today's Caedmon, albeit without any of the Caedmon treasures. The latest additions to their impressive catalogue are Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest and The Essential Dylan Thomas. The Wilde CDs [NA234212] come from the BBC production of 1952 with incomparable performances by John Gielgud and Edith Evans. Very pleasing listening indeed, with a bonus of Gielgud reading a selection of poems by various authors. The Dylan Thomas 4 CD set [NA434312] has Under Milk Wood with Richard Burton, et. al. , the author reading And Death Shall Have No Dominion, and others. Also many new recordings by today's performers. These are ideal for the car as there are no extremes in dynamics. Bruce Surtees 58 WWW. TH EWH O LENOTE.COM O CTO BER 1 - N OVEMBER 7 2005 Back to Ad Index

memory. But the Scarlatti version stands out. The inventor of the operatic aria plays with the formula, combining tercets into single arias, inserting recitatives and ending the piece in a way that is nothing short of astonishing, given the period's tradition. This splendid piece receives a sensitive treatment from Emma Kirkby, a period music soprano of rare beauty, said to disappear into the music, "an art that conceals art", as one critic aptly put it. Long-time collaborator of Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, Ms. Kirkby continues to bring the angelic sound to the baroque music. She is matched by Canadian countertenor Daniel Taylor - easily one of the most sought-after voices of our day. Robert Tomas Concert Note: Daniel Taylor is one of the featured soloists at the International Bach Festival at the University of Toronto Oct.1-9. Beethoven - Fidelio Christine Brewer; Richard Margison; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir; Philharmonia Orchestra; David Parry Peter Moores Foundation/ Chandos CHAN 3123(2) This latest recording of Fidelio is sung in English, which provides a direct way to understand the words. David Pountney's translation is imaginative and generally idiomatic. But the spoken dialogues have been trimmed down - unfortunately, since they are fundamental. Infelicities like 'I feel so insecure' and 'Maybe he's dead' don't do Beethoven's masterpiece justice, and the occasional departures from the German text are puzzling. Florestan's searing 'Gott! Welch Dunkel hier! 0 grauenvolle stille!' here becomes 'God! The darkest hour, when silence howls with tension', instead of the far more accurate, yet equally singable, 'God! What darkness here! 0 terrifying silence'. Canadian tenor Richard Margison's delivery of this harrowing cry is muted. He conveys the desolation of Florestan, chained in a dungeon. But the dramatic impact is diminished. Even as Margison builds up the intensity with beautifully soaring O CTOBER 1 - N O VEM BER 7 2005 Back to Ad Index lines, his powerful, bright voice never sounds tortured, starving or truly desperate. Conductor David Perry's speedy and unyielding tempos don't help. Christine Brewer supplies the passion, with a moving, vividly multilayered characterization of Leonora, Florestan's wife. Rebecca Evans brings girlish tenderness to the role of Marzellina, who is in love with Leonora in her disguise as Fidelio. The splendid Robert Lloyd imparts humour and humanity to the likeable but morally compromised Rocco, Florestan's jailor. Pavlo Hunka is terrific as the vengeful Pizarro, reveling in his crazed fury. The Philharmonia Orchestra is fluent, and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir is gorgeous, with delightfully precise diction. The otherwise interesting program notes offer no explanations about this recording project or the translation, and unfortunately do not include the I ibretto in the original German. Pamela Marg/es Dmitri Hvorostovsky In Concert Festival de Lanaudiere Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal; Charles Dutoit Radio Canada I V AI DVD 4330 He's got it all: voice like a Howitzer, good looks and a commanding stage presence that capture his audiences before he's even fired his first note. This video of a 1998 concert featuring baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky with the OSM under Charles Dutoit is well produced and makes for a very satisfying 54 minutes although Hvorostovsky sometimes forgets the unforgiving scrutiny of the camera and slips out of character during his mix of recital and operatic selections. While the audience clearly hangs on his every note, he could do with a slightly more personal warming to the good (paying) people in the seats. As the concert begins, there's a hint that the Mussorgsky "Songs and Dances of Death" are an uphill climb but by the fourth and final song in the set "The Field Marshall" there's no doubt that Hvorostovsky has hit his full stride. His "Alzati! ..." from Verdi's Un Ballo inMaschera is passionate and powerful. A couple more Verdi excerpts from Trovatore and CONTINUES Ill Ill 01 111 Iii Ill Iii Iii OI rim rim mi( Tim Tim NAXOS 111 11 11111 /1111 11111 11111 OF CANADA LTD • Over 2, 700 titles • All digital recordings • New recordings and compositions monthly • Critical acclaim in all key classical publications • Featuring great Canadian artists All this at an astonishingly low price! The world's leading Classical Music label! BOCl'IIFRl:\I f "t'llu So11:1t.1., D'lndy • Bruch - Works For Clarinet, Cella & Piano Am E11,e111bl, El.I.I·:~ L\AFFE II 1U

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