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Volume 11 Issue 9 - June 2006

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Back to Ad Index DIS DISCS REVIEWED VOCAL Bach - Cantatas 98;180;56;55 La Petite Bande; Sigiswald Kuijken Accent ACC 25301 This disc is a part of a twenty CD project by La Petite Bande and Sigiswald Kuijken to record Bach's cantatas for the complete liturgical year. The cantatas are being performed on the appropriate Sunday, and recorded around the same time. The project began this year and will end in 2011. Sigiswald Kuijken is the foremost Dutch gambist and viola da spalla player. Over the past thirty-five years he has also made a name for himself as a prominent and intelligent director of small orchestras and chamber groups. Kuijken is clearly comfortable with the idiom of onevoice-per-part Bach cantatas, and he uses it to great effect on this recording. He discovers new and innovative ways to keep the music alive, and the use of the viola da spalla is stunning. The soloists are well chosen and fit beautifully into the sound of La Petite Bande. Soprano Sophie Karthauser has a distinct, focused voice with plenty of spin. It floats perfectly above the rest of the ensemble. Tenor Christoph Genz and baritone Dominik Womer have lively, versatile voices which work skillfully with the movement of the pieces. Alto Petra Noskaiova is somewhat less skilled than the other singers, but still provides a pleasant sound to absorb. To my surprise and subsequent elation, Kuijken's jacket notes include a great deal of focus on the libretto of each piece. A great deal of study into the metre, meaning and rhetoric that is passed between the singers' text and the instrumental responses has been done, and it's about time! This study can be heard in the interpretation, and nothing has ever been so sublime. Kuijken and Bach have married, and these discs are their handsome children. Gabrielle McLaughlin IIF.\I! .', 1'1< \ H< !l_,1 111 1~ .tnt! \ntJ" 1.1, I !~:ff• , 1. mfo rtl 1·111,i · ll11•1 dh · l'ml•.· II • \:,1d .. ,. 1 .1;,,, ! h " ' ,I ,, ; ,, i,11 .1 h ,,. ',,d I ,I.-,,-, Hear My Prayer Karina Gauvin; Choir of St. John's Elora; Noel Edison Naxos 8.557493 Choral singing in Canada has enjoyed a sustained and enthusiastic growth for several decades and it's gratifying to see a major label like NAXOS acknowledge that by promoting one of our premier ensembles in a new release. The Choir of St. John's, Elora under Noel Edison is trained in the English tradition. This makes their performances of Howells' Magnificat, Stanford's J ustorum animae and Finzi's God is gone up truly classic. Organist Matthew Larkin clearly understands the instrument and the space in which he and the choir are recording - the balance is perfect. His registrations in the Finzi are marvelous and capture wonderfully the spirit of the piece. The choir performs other works by Purcell , Franck, Mendelssohn and Elgar. The Elgar is the familiar Nimrod variation from his Enigma Variations set to the text Lux aeterna. The Franck item is Panis angelicus. Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine is beautifully done with the choir's men del ivering some terrific tone colouring. This recording is very good overall. The MozartLaudate Dominum might have benefited from a slightly less " English" choral approach that was more complementary to Karina Gauvin 's operatic style. There are also some entries by the men that sound a touch flat but nothing terribly egregious. Two Canadian works contribute to the disc ' s varied program: Stephen Chatman 's Remember and Eleanor Daley's In Remembrance. Both reflect the feelings of loss and longing their composers set out to 42 WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COM convey. Edison and the choir capture this innately in their performance, especially in the Daley where the poignancy of both text and music are profoundly moving. This collection of standards should please nearly everyone with a fondness for choral works. Well chosen repertoire and superb engineering make for outstanding listening. Alex Baran 1 ' Vivaldi -Tito Manlio Gauvin, Hallenberg, Mijanovic, Ulivieri, Senn; Academia Bizantina; Ottavio Dantone Na"ive OP30413 Vivaldi's opera Tito Manlio well deserves the sumptuous treatment it receives here. If this opera isn't quite at the level ofhis masterpiece Orlando Furioso, it's pretty c lose. Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin brings her shimmering sound to the title role ofTito Manlio with utmost style. The exquisite duet between Manlio and Ann Hallenberg's lustrous Servilia, 'Non mi vuoi' offers a remarkable example of Vivaldi's brilliance as an opera composer. Nicola Ulivieri as Tito, Marijana Mijanovic as Vitelia and Christian Senn as Lindo are also delightful, Barbara di Castri and Mark Mi !ho f­ er less so. Ottavio Dantone, conducting his Accademia Bizantina from the harpsichord, tempers exuberance with elegance. In contrast to many of today's Italian period instrument groups, his tempos, though lively, are not wild, and attacks are not aggressively punched out. Slow arias are given utmost expressiveness. Ifthe recitatives tend to lack urgency, there is plenty of excitement in the orchestral playing, with Vivaldi's score offering frequent opportunities for the virtuosic orchestra musicians to shine as soloists. This production is a standout, even measured against this outstanding series from Na"ive. Now that so many of Handel's operas have entered the repertoire, it's surely time for at least the finest of Vivaldi's many operas, like Tito Manlio, to fol low. The deluxe booklet includes artist biographies along with the libret- to, background notes by Frederic Delamea, musical consultant for this remarkable series, and an interesting interview with Dantone. Pam Margles Heppner - Wagner (Selections from The Ring of the Nibelung) Ben Heppner; Staatskapell Dresden; Peter Schneider Deutsche Grammophon 4776003 Extracting chunks of Wagner's Ring cycle from their contexts is a tricky business. On this disc, what work best dramatically are those scenes that are presented intact. The scene with Mime from Siegfried is dramatically tense, psychologically nuanced and musically satisfying, with tenor Burkhard Ulrich's Mime providing lots of character. The dying Siegfried's ' Brlinnhilde, heilige Braut', from the final opera Gotterdammerung, magically disappears into Siegfried 's powerful Funeral Music. But passages from Siegfried 's love scene with Sieglinde in Die Walklire lose their impact because Sieglinde's lines have been cut. In Siegfried's dialogue with the Woodbird from Siegfried the Woodbird's music has not been cut. But the coloratura soprano has been replaced by two instruments - first a clarinet, then an oboe. Without Wagner's words, the meaning is obscured. Ultimately this album is more about Heppner than Wagner. Heppner demonstrates here why he is the reigning Wagnerian tenor of his generation. There is much to cherish, especially with Heppner's intensely lyrical beauty at all dynamic levels, even at his most heroic. Since he hasn't yet sung either Siegmund or Siegfried on stage, this is as close as we can get to his Ring until his much-anticipated debut in Siegfried, in Aix-en-Provence in 2008. The orchestra under a charismatic Peter Schneider is well-served by the vivid sound quality of this disc. Unfortunately the booklet notes don't discuss anything beyond the plot - there is nothing about the artists, the music or the recording itself. Terrific photos, though - Heppner looks great. Pam Marg/es JU NE 1 - J ULY 7 2006

Back to Ad Index - - --------- Concert Notes: Ben Heppner sings in the COC Gala Concert to open the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on June 14. On June 15 and 17 he sings with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall. From September 12 to October I the Canadian Opera Company is performing the complete Ring Cycle with Clifton Forbis as Siegmund and Christian Franz as Siegfried at the Four Seasons Centre. People of Faith Canadian Brass with the Elmer lseler Singers Open Day Recordings ODR 9337 Remember the old CBC program, Hymn Sing? It ran from 1965-95, and was cancelled in the infamous round of budget cuts that also ripped Front Page Chall enge from the schedule. l recall watch ing the show as a child; my parents loved it, and it was on just before Disney on Sunday even ings. l wasn't crazy about it at first, but got to appreciate it after a whi le, since I got to hear hymns performed with a high level of musicality. Many of us probably associate hymns with bland congregational singing. It was always refreshing in church to hear the anthems, since you got to hear the choir pull out al I the stops and really sing wel l. Imagine a recording where the hymns are clad in all new arrangements, with impeccable brass and organ accompaniment, with a professional choir. "People of Faith" is that recording. I realize that hymns are not everyone's cup of tea, but if you want to hear how good some of these classic pieces can sound, or if you 'd like to hear a few excellent modern hymns, this recording is for you. Merlin Williams CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Arnold, S. - Overtures, Op.8 Toronto Chamber Orchestra; Kevin Mallon Naxos 8/557484 , l \IC\t)! Jl Perhaps you have been subjected to a heavy diet of Boccherini CD 's at one too many intimate social functions, and Stamitz just leaves you cold. If you are ready to simply write-off the transitional period that followed the late baroque take heart, and listen to this new Samuel Arno ld disc from Naxos. Arno ld was London-born, and in some ways Handel 's successor. He was aware of developments in Mannheim during the formative years whi le he was honing his own craft. Between his music directorship at the Haymarket Little Theatre and being organist to the Chapel Royal, he produced a huge body of work, all of it in rococo style, but with a decidedly English bent. Nmws presents us the Op. 8 Overtures, written for Marylebone Gardens in 1771 , which occupy a good proportion of the CD. All of these are in three-movement fast/s low/fast structure, and strikingly well-written. Also there is incidental music from the 1778 Haymarket production of Macbeth. Arnold got little credit for this in his own lifetime, which is a shame. His Macbeth is fi lied with Scottish tunes, which bring an eerie familiarity to ears weaned on Riverdance and the Rankin fan1ily. The last track given to the Polly Overture, in many ways the sequel to The Beggar's Opera. Kevin Mall on and the Toronto Chamber Orchestra do a first-rate job, abetted by the vast acoustic space of Grace Church-on-the-Hill. Naxos production values excel, as expected. Highly recommended, although you ' ll need your reading glasses to decipher the liner notes. John S. Gray Bach - The Well-Tempered Clavier Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano Decca 475 6832 The didactic cornucopia that are the two volumes of Bach 's Das wohltemperierte Kia vier provide all things to all people. From grave fugues to giddy preludes, Bach does it all. It is the bedrock of modern pianism and the sine qua non of counterpoint for composers. The sparse notation of these two times 48 pieces (preludes and fugues in Ill Iii iii iO ill ill Ill 111 tn nm nm nm nm nm NAXOS 111111111111111 IIIII IIIII OF CANADA LTD • Over 3,000 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! 1 11 •.• 11, II I I.I..\:\ ·,,·11 I l••• .1 I 1·-.111.,! -. 111~, r~ • ,, .. 11 il1'- I> Healey Willan: In the Heavenly Kingdom Hymns, Anthems and Motets Elora Festival Singers Noel Edison. conductor 8557734 \II HJ1 \', ('1 \:-, r1H'l'l'IH•\iol!u t '1111n rl" Ned Rorem: Flute Concerto/ Violin Concerto Jeffrey Kllaner. flute Plliliope Ournl violin Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orcheslra Jose Serebrier. conductor 8559278 Strike Up The Band! Tl1r Band ol the Royal Swedisl1 Arr fore~ Jerker Jol1ansson. conduclor 8557545 1:1n < 11 \ 1tdi11 ( HIH", rlti \,, I !,"Pf< 11'01,t. • H,

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