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Volume 15 Issue 6 - March 2010

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considered full period

considered full period performance of thefamiliar music.Robert TomasSchubert - WinterreiseMark Padmore; Paul LewisHarmonia Mundi HMU 907484Known primarilyas a baroque tenor,Mark Padmore turnsout be a first classlieder singer. Thisis a personal opinionand I am wellaware of opponentswho would argue thatSchubert must be sung by a singer whose nativetongue is German. Padmore, who singsin the original key, communicates WilhelmMüller’s lyrics with disarming, heartfelt sincerity.The tenor possesses a tender, floatingvoice that illuminates the cycle with a freshand contagious approach. He projects thetexts in such a way that he seems to be singingdirectly to the listener and not to an anonymousaudience. There is not another versionthat comes even close to this one. Onecan only marvel at its daring originality andcompassion.In comparison with the version by PeterPears and Benjamin Britten I was really surprisedto find that Padmore and Lewis’s is interpretativelysuperior in every respect. PaulLewis is a perfect partner. He is highly respectedas a Beethoven and Schubert exponentand, as we now witness, proves an idealcollaborator in this genre.While I remain enchanted by the timeless,sublime versions of the three Schubert songcycles sung by Herman Prey that I wroteabout in the December issue - Winterreisewas particularly moving as interpreted bythat late German baritone accompanied byHelmut Deutsch (CMAJOR 700208) – Padmore’snew recording is perfectly balanced,clear and enjoyable, making his Winterreisea stand out. Harmonia Mundi promises thatthe other two cycles will follow.Bruce SurteesBerlioz - Benvenuto CelliniWiener Staatspernchor; Wiener Philharmoniker;Valery GergievNaxos 2.110271One could be hard pressed to give an unbiasedjudgment on this “controversial” productionof Berlioz’ firstopera and undoubtedmasterpiece. Controversial,as director PhilippStölzl created a funfilled futuristic fantasyextravaganza, placed ina New York-like settingfilled with helicopters,robots and even a whale.So one could ask: whathas this got to do with16th century Rome? However, if you thinkabout it, swashbuckling Cellini was himselfno ordinary person, but one whose life storycould fill a novel, and the first truly Romantichero, ahead of his time. Obviously no ordinarytreatment would do and so the directorcreated a vastly different, anachronisticbut constantly fascinating and innovativetheatrical experience. Perhaps he went overboarda bit with the robots, but his imaginationreally knew no limits. In this respect heemulates the composer, young Berlioz whoalso “pushed the envelope” musically withextremely difficult singing roles, double, triple,quadruple choruses and cross rhythmsetc.To control this mammoth task a masterconductor is required, of course. About 30years ago it was Sir Colin Davis who rediscoveredand recorded the opera, but now itis the incomparable Valery Gergiev who canpropel his orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic,into the Berliozian stratosphere.Burkhard Fritz as Benvenuto is a strongheroic tenor and copes well with the vocaldemands of the role, while Maria Kovalevskaas his beloved Teresa enchants us with herlovely voice and physical beauty. Englishbaritone Brindley Sherratt is very capableand convincing as Balducci, the Pope’s treasurer.In the supporting cast American sopranoKate Aldrich is superb as Ascanio andRussian bass Mikhail Petrenko creates a hilariouscameo role as the Pope. The productionis a visual stunner and comes togetherwonderfully, particularly at the carnivalscene with a Brueghelesque feel about it.And just wait till you see the ending which islike a Vesuvian eruption with a giant foundryengulfed in flames, smoke and molten iron!Verdi - Opera ScenesDmitri Hvorostovsky;Sondra RadvanovskyDelos DE 3403Janos GardonyiAmong Giuseppe Verdi’s gifts to the operarepertoire is a welcome body of duets forbaritone and soprano. Unless baritones cancultivate a credible upper range to allow foroccasional forays into tenor repertoire, theyoften languish for opportunities at musicaldalliance with sopranos.Moreover, matching vocal colour andweight in a baritone/soprano duo can betricky… but happily not impossible, as thisrecording demonstrates so well. DmitriHvorostovsky’s long career and vocal giftshave placed him in that small group of musthearVerdi baritones. Pairing him with thebeautifully matched voice of Sondra Radvanovskymakes for a wonderfully compellingrecording of Verdi opera excerpts.Hvorostovsky brings tremendous vocal securityand experienced dramatic deliveryto his various roles. Radvanovsky matcheshim measure for measure and the results arestunning. The recording’s producers havewisely selected UnBallo’s Act 3 Scene 1duet by Amelia andRenato to open theCD. Beautifully executed,this track firmlyholds the listener’sattention for the balanceof the disc.In addition to the duets, 3 solos let us enjoythe voices in their own spotlight. Radvanovskyperforms “Song to the Moon” fromDvorak’s Rusalka in a way the composermust have imagined a Slavic voice shouldsing it. Her semi-spoken ending is especiallypoignant. Further, Hvorostovsky sings Mozart’s“Deh vieni” from Don Giovanni, lighteninghis approach as much as possible butperhaps leaving us appreciating the more naturalairiness of his Italian counterparts.However, one cannot fault the authenticallyRussian colour and tone of Hvorostovsky’svoice. While artfully managed in theVerdi repertoire, it flowers fully and richly inanother recent recording of Tchaikovsky Romances(DELOS DE3393).Radvanovsky finally closes the live performancewith a powerfully and flawlesslyexecuted “Vissi d’arte” (Tosca). The audiencein the Moscow Conservatory’s GreatHall reportedly applauded for twenty minutesafter this concert – and they had everyreason to do so.Alex BaranConcert Note: Sondra Radvanovsky andDmitri Hvorostovsky are featured in “AnItalian Opera Spectacular” at Roy ThomsonHall on March 20.EARLY, CLASSICAL & BEYONDGossec - Aux Armes, Citoyens: Royal andRevolutionary Music for WindsLes Jacobins; Mathieu LussierATMA ACD2 2595Absolute monarchy, revolution, terror, Napoleon,restored monarchy- François-JosephGossec livedthrough all of thisover his 95 years.And he orchestratedLa Marseillaise.Despite name andtitle, this CD featuresboth royalistand revolutionarymusic. So, with our six period-woodwind instrumentalists,we aristos can ride with theGrande Chasse de Chentilli to the accompanimentof clarinets, horns and bassoons.Then, revolutionaries, we lower our flags aswe remember assassinated Deputy Feraud.Back on course we hear La Marseilaise.Gossec’s arrangement starts at a quick56 WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COMMarch 1 - April 7, 2010

evolutionary pace but ends in a more stately,Royalist, tempo. Gossec hedges his bets...And so to five revolutionary airs underMathieu Lussier’s artistic direction. Ça iraleads. It inspired the French revolutionaries(and one English officer who actually madeit his regimental march). In fact, most of thissuite is rather un-revolutionary in its tempo- but still a wonderful opportunity to hearauthentic Baroque woodwind solos. We arriveat the battlefield with four short pieces.Clarinets, bassoons, and horns boost ourmorale as we march, playing spiritedly as weengage our foe at close quarters, and withdignity as victory is ours.More relaxing are Gossec’s Andante andChasse d’Hylas et Sylvie. Gossec’s interestin the clarinet, new in France when he wascomposing in the early 1770s, is ably demonstratedby Jane Booth and Martin Carpentier.Gossec’s hymns to liberty are more reflectivethan brash; the same is true of his Simphonieà 6. What Les Jacobins have donehere is to publicise the vast store of undiscoveredFrench revolutionary music.Michael SchwartzMendelssohn - Piano TriosEmanuel Ax; Yo-Yo Ma; Itzhak PerlmanSony Music 88697 52192 2Menahem Pressler, the pianist who for morethan half a century was the driving forcebehind the Beaux Arts Trio, is inclined totake a jaundiced view of piano trios cobbledtogether on a temporary,ad-hoc basis.“Three fine fellows donot make a trio!” hepointedly remarked.Yet when the“three fine fellows”happen to be ItzhakPerlman, Yo-Yo Ma and Emmanuel Ax, Pressler’s concernsmay be set aside. Although this grouphadn’t played in public before last year andhas given only handful of concerts, their collectiveinterpretation is decisive and secure,banishing any hint of the wimpy playing thatsometimes finds its way into Mendelssohnperformances.The two Mendelssohn trios on this disc arepaired on countless recordings – but they’veprobably never been played or recorded betterthan they have here. From the outset ofthe D Minor Trio, the group’s playing is taut,nuanced and intricately interwoven. The dramaticfirst movement is nicely contrastedwith the introspective second. The thirdmovement is all coyness and charm; and thelast movement is effervescent, with muscularoutbursts.Perhaps the group might have taken theopening movement of the C Minor Trio alittle faster – but the tempo they chose providessome breathing room for the expressiverange of this movement: the sotto vocestring passages, and surprising outburstsfrom the piano. The second movement is allsweetness; and the third scampers lightly, asa Mendelssohnian scherzo should. The finaledoes not lack grandness, but there’s a springto the rhythm that propels the music forward.I’m reminded of one other thing Presslerhas said about piano trios: the heart of theensemble is the piano. Violinists and cellistsmay not like this proposal – but it’s wellborne out on this recording, which is solidlyfounded on Ax’s superb playing.Colin EatockElgar - Violin ConcertoNikolaj Znaider; Staatskapelle Dresden;Sir Colin DavisRCA Red Seal 88697 60588 2Nikolaj Znaider has not yet attained universalfame but, be assured,he is on theway. He is an exclusiveRCA recordingartist and has severalfine concerto discsincluding the Brahmsand Korngold withValery Gergiev, theBeethoven and Mendelssohn with Zubin Mehta,the Nielsen and Bruch with LawrenceFoster, and the Prokofiev No.2 and Glazunovwith Mariss Jansons. This new recording ofthe Elgar is clearly one of the finest versionsthis concerto has enjoyed.Connoisseurs know well the historic recordingwith the teen-aged Yehudi Menuhinand Elgar conducting the London SymphonyOrchestra from 1932. Although Fritz Kreislerpremiered the concerto in 1910 it wasthe Menuhin/Elgar that had the music worldtalking.Znaider impresses me with a seemingly effortlesscommand of his instrument and hissilky, singing tone. A performance aided bythe authoritative collaboration with consummateElgarian Colin Davis, under whom onecould believe that the German orchestra wasa traditional English ensemble steeped inthe tradition. Not that I have auditioned theothers recently but I believe that this performanceis not bettered by any version that Ihave previously heard.Top marks are also due the production andsound engineering, naturally balanced anddetailed. One caveat, the timing for this concertois less than 50 minutes - RCA shouldhave included an appropriate filler.English Music for ViolaEniko Magyar; Tadashi ImaiNaxos 8.572407Bruce SurteesThere is something about the viola’s tonalquality that makes it seem quintessentiallyEnglish; appropriately so, given that itwas an Englishman – Lionel Tertis – who almostsinglehandedly established the viola asa legitimate solo instrument in the early 20thcentury. Tertis had connections with most ofthe music on this outstanding debut CD bythe London-based Hungarian violist EnikoMagyar.The Bliss Sonata is the most challenging ofthe works, with a turbulent, restless and dissonantstart and a passionatethird movement.It was writtenfor, and dedicated to,Tertis, who gave thefirst performance in1933.A year earlier, Tertishad transcribedDelius’s Third Violin Sonata and had playedit for the ailing composer at the latter’s homein Grez-sur-Loing. Written in 1930, it is Deliusat his distinctively lyrical best.The seven attractive miniatures by FrankBridge date from 1901 to 1908, when Bridgewas in his 20s. Most were originally writtenfor violin or cello; only two – Pensiero andAllegro appassionato – were written specificallyfor the viola, Bridge’s own instrument,and were published as the first titles in theLionel Tertis Viola Library in 1908.Magyar plays her c.1700 Grancino viola(on loan from the Royal Academy) withwarmth, sensitivity, and a superb technique,and is ably and sympathetically supported bypianist Tadashi Imai. The recording qualityand booklet notes are both excellent.Terry RobbinsMigot - Suite à trois; Le livre desdanceriesRobert Cram; Trio HochelagaATMA ACD2 2543Intense in his spirituality, drawing on therich diversity of French music, and inspiredby the Touraine landscape, Georges Migot(1891-1976) could not fail to achieve fame aspresident of La Spirale, the Parisian societydedicated to offering performances of newFrench works.Migot’s Trio of 1935 commences with theModéré, an intense - and clashing and disjointed- movement. It is almost a duel betweenpiano and violin.It is followedby an Allègre. Bothmovements makegreat demands on theskills of cellist PaulMarleyn and violinistAnne Robert; theirskills ensure that thisrecording matches up to the description ofthe Trio as one of the most arresting piecesof French chamber music.Third movement is the Danse, where StéphaneLemelin’s piano-playing comes into itsown, as intense as the string parts, but moredisciplined as the piano is denied the libertythat the latter enjoy as they invoke France’svaried heritage. Last is the Final: no instrumentdominates and Migot allows each to testits player’s skill. This is an intense suite ofchamber music, a challenge to preconceivedMarch 1 - April 7, 2010 WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COM 57

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