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Volume 11 Issue 3 - November 2005

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DISC(I VOCAL AND OPERA

DISC(I VOCAL AND OPERA Handel - Saul Rosemary Joshua; Emma Bell; Lawrence Zazzo; Michael Slattery; Gidon Saks; RIAS Kammerchor; Concerto Koln; Rene Jacbobs Harmonia Mundi HMC 801877/78 By all reports the year 1737 was a difficult one for Handel. He suffered with severe rheumatism and a "Paraletick Disorder", which rendered his right hand useless (a fate worse than death for a keyboard player!). Upon his recovery, he entered a fascinating period and over the next few years wrote Israel in Egyp~ l 'Allegro, fl Penseroso ed il Moderato , Messiah, Samson, various organ concertos, trio sonatas and the breath-taking setting of the story of King Saul, taken from the !st and 2nd Old Testament books of Samuel. Charles Jennens' libretto is Shakespearean in scope and depth, beginning with David 's victory over Goliath and return to Israel, where he encounters a grateful king (Saul) with whom he 's soon embroiled in a comp I icated political battle, involving power, family, friendships, love, I ife and death. The gifted conductor Rene Jacobs has assembled a dream-come-true group of singers and instrumentalists for his new recording of Saul Jacobs' pedigree as a musician and background as a singer is evident al I the way through, as is his detennination to tell this remarkable story with equal parts grandeur, reason, subtlety and tremendous beauty. Soprano Rosemary Joshua inspires tears as Saul 's brave and heartbroken daughter Michal. Tenor Jeremy Ovenden brings depth as her conflicted brother Jonathan. Counter-tenor Lawrence Zazzo infuses the hero David with intelligence and compassion. The role of Saul is authoritatively sung by bass-baritone G idon Saks, fan1 ii iar to Toronto audiences for his many triumphs on the COC stage. The drama and pathos is really brought home by the interjections, 74 Back to Ad Index comments, celebrations and laments from the RIAS-Karnmerchor. And the instrumentalists of Concerto Koln outdo themselves with playing at once fiery, elegant, grand and intimate. Special mention must be made oflutenist Shizuko Noiri and trumpeters Hannes andAlmut Rux for their wondrous and varied sounds. Recordings like this one do not come along often. Seek it out, arm yourself with a score, set aside an afternoon and prepare to be deeply moved. Larry Beckwith Donizetti - L'Elisir d'amore Kathleen Battle, Luciano Pavarotti, Juan Pons, and Enzo Dara Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus; James Levine Deutsche Grammophon 073 4021 Rossini - II Turco in Italia Cecilia Bartoli, Ruggero Raimondi, Oliver Widmer and Paolo Rumetz Chorus and Orchestra of the Zurich Opera House; Franz Weiser-Most Arthaus Musik 100 369 Donizetti 's l 'Elisir d'amore and Rossini 's fl Turco in Italia are both be/ canto comedies, and even share the same librettist, Felice Romani, but they are very different operas as these two productions recently released on DVD demonstrate. The L 'Elisir, from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, is grand and extravagant. The production, with its muted pastel drops painted like illustrations from an antique children's book, looks as lovely on DVD as it does live on stage. In 1991 , Luciano Pavarotti 's best years were behind him, but he still gives a superb performance as Nemorino. His con- WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM stantly befuddled look and naYve gestures felicitously embody Nemorino's character, whi le his clarity, style, and above all his inimensely beautiful voice make this a vocal perfonnance that has only been bettered by Pavarotti himself twenty years earlier. He looks, however, immobile and clumsy alongside the superb acting of Kathleen Battle, making an unusually sly and sophisticated Adina. Battle, here at the peak of her career, deploys her shimmering and sensual voice with total ease, caressing every note and tum of phrase. Juan Pons as Belco re provides yet more gorgeous vocal ism and Enzo Dara shows off his superb comedic skills as Dulcamara. James Levine leads an exciting perfonnance. The production of If Turco from 2002 at the Zurich Opera House updates the action with outlandishly garish sets, props and costumes, adding to the overall exuberant effect. The Poeta, who is writing the story as the action takes place, rules over an intennediary stage set up in front of the main stage. This contrivance clarifies the action in1rnensely and makes sense of an unusual dramatic set-up. Already from the overture, expertly conducted by Franz Weiser-Most, it is evident that this is a gutsy bravura performance, emphasizing the fun and taking full advantage of the intimacy of the house.No one cou Id better capture these aspects than mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, clearly the star of this production in a role that suits her flamboyant stage personality. Bartoli, coping easily with the soprano tessitura, in her big scena "Squallida veste" moves from glistening and plaintive whispers to daring and fearless outcries, and ends with a dazzling display of pinpoint coloratura. Like Pavarotti, veteran bass Ruggero Raimondi would have been superb thirty years ago; as it is, his magnificent voice is in reasonable shape, and his acting is charming even if he's not very credible as a seductive Turkish prince. The rest of the cast are al I very polished, even if none of them are as convincing as Bartoli. Seth Estrin Verdi - Messa Da Requiem Eva Mei; Bernarda Fink; Michael Schade; lldebrando d' Arcangelo; Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Weiner Philharmoniker; Nikolaus Harnoncourt SONY/RCA Red Seal 87876 61244 2 The highly acclaimed Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt lives up to his reputation in this new recording ofV erdi's Requiem. Being aware that it wou ld be difficult to surpass the many famous recordings of the past (e.g. Karajan, Giulini, De Sabata etc.) the scholarly conductor goes back to the original autograph score, unearthed by Ricardi in 1994, and takes a fresh approach to dynamics, orchestral and vocal colour. The result is an inspired performance of piety, drama and supreme musicianship free of all theatricals and cheap emotionalism. Hamoncourt's experience with the music of Bach helps him bring clarity to the difficult double choruses such as the Sanctus and the final Libera me fugue. The very fine soloists he selected are purposefully of lighter voice than usual and as a resu lt they sound strained at times but there are many wonderful moments to compensate for this. Listen to Canadian tenor Michael Schade's unbelievablepp voice beginning the f-lostias or the fine up-corning Italian soprano Eva Mei's sublime expression of fear and trepidation in Libera me. Mezzo Bernarda Fink and basso Ildebrando d' Archangelo are somewhat less convincing but satisfactory none the less. The Arnold Schonberg Choir provides suspenseful, hushed pianissimos and is wonderful throughout, and the Vienna Philhannonic is magnificent. A distinguished recording with translucent, detailed sound. Janos Gardonyi Aeterna Natalie Choquette ISBA Music Entertainment ISB CD 5107 Comic actors, they say, have an easier time migrating to serious roles than actors moving in the other direction. Being genu inely funny is apparently not as easy as it looks. So when comedienne soprano Natalie Choquette targets the heart with a compilation of serious and meditative songs, you'd NOVEMBER 1 - DECEMBER 7 2005

e well advised to be within arms length of a hanky. As a twelve year old, Choquette attended a Christmas mass in the Vatican's Sistine chapel. She writes, in the brief I iner notes, how she has never forgotten the power of that night's music, its sacredness and beauty. The lighted-hearted singer known for her relentless spoofs of opera as " La Diva" here shows us a very different side of herself. We ' ve grown accustomed to the full voice style of her operatic recordings, so it's quite surprising to hear her pull back to a strikingly delicate, lighter and almost straighttone delivery for much of this recording. Her control of pitch is flawless and impressively so in the very high range. What sounds like occasional weakness up top, however, may be a result of this new vocal approach that isn't driven by the full body singing style of the 19th and 20th centuries. This recording is issued in aid of the Quebec Cancer Foundation and Choquette's commitment to the cause is movingly clear through her selection ofrepertoire. Mozart's Ave Vemm and Laudate Dominum top the list of favourites that include some Bach Cantata arias and works by Franck, Gounod and others. Arresting simplicity, musical polish and artistic integrity - this production offers it al I. Alex Baran coach Eric Dewdney who seems to understand the rudiments as well as the mysteries of vocal technique. This CD covers a wide range of styles, but the musical buffet is actually too large and the program seems to lack a clear direction. Many of the "chestnut" hymns and songs are not nearly as impressive as the few selections at either end of the historical spectrum. For example, while Thomas Campion ' s Sing a Song of Joy and Geoffrey Burgon 's Nunc Dimitt is are about 4 centuries apart, Lanigan approaches them as pure music and delivers them with impressive poise and conviction. Songs by Purce! I and Dvorak are equally remarkable. Timothy Lanigan is gifted and takes his vocation seriously. The most exciting prospect for this young man is the promise of his next voice. All else appears to be in place and is simply waiting for it to emerge. My hunch is that we will be very pleased. Alex Baran EARLY MUSIC --- ... -,- ----.- \ J '" • Over 3,000 titles • All digital recordi ngs • 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! Brahms - Symphony No. 2 rv 1 , Alsop, cor,J,,, k)1 ,---~~~=".JOJ I;\ .\IM"S [,1.1, l, u ,l , i11:.,: ,II lhl· l l'ili11 ~ .111d !1 11 11 I ~; 1,1 !IH· ..,,,, t1lu , U"h1 11111, r .. r d .1 1·1 The Romantic Harp lud·1 Lornm hoi: , L ,,,Jt\, CI.ASSICAL f.P Santiago de Murcia Codex, Mexico c.1730 Ensemble Kapsberger; Rolf Lislevand Limited Na"ive Edition E 8903 Adams - I was looking at the ceiling and then I sow the sky k.lous ;:,mon c,)nducto 8( ''!003-,.,!l Discover Music of the Classical Era ·,'Or JS Evening and Morning: the Sixth Day Timothy Lanigan, boy soprano Chestnut Hall Music CHM050720 Boy sopranos that "make it" are as rare as cactus blooms and last about as long. Their voices are fragile things that require care and nurturing up to and through their "change" into adulthood. So it is astonishing that Waterloo native Timothy Lanigan, already 14, is singing solidly in the boy soprano range with high notes confident and clear giving no sign of weakness anywhere. His vocal positioning is good. In fact, it's very good and holds the promise of an adult voice that could become something remarkable. A lot of credit for this has to go to his vocal N OV EMBER 1 - DECEMBER 7 2005 Back to Ad Index The 'codex' under consideration in this excellent recording by Ensemble Kapsberger is the Saldivar Codex 4, dating from Mexico around 1730. Santiago de Murcia was a Spanish guitarist/composer who emigrated to the new world after a successful professional life in Europe, and his compositions reflect multiple musical influences: French, Italian and Spanish, central American and west-coast African. Ensemble Kapsberger, under the inspired direction of Rolf Lislevand, has chosen to present this exploration of Murcia's music with a similarly varied approach and the results are extraordinary. This collection of typical dances and ostinato bass lines includes versions of the canario, tarantela, galliarda, payssano, folia,jacaras and others. My personal favourites on this recording include the CONTINUES lJ II\ fl "\ ":a i .. , u .1 ''.I 111 p ,1 1i i1 , , ... I ·~ lrnl .Pi:!11 • l'.1!,.,LL.d•· Haydn Symphonies Nos. 1-5 htrick r,dlois ,;ndL t.Jr < 1 l: J AIIIIH-: 1\Tl'II \IF a11d .. 111,r f. 11 .. 11rill" h1 inn~ 11· . I 1,,,1,- ,,f ~ ! ( ,

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