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Volume 16 Issue 10 - July/August 2011

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VOCALShakespeare –

VOCALShakespeare – Come again sweet loveDaniel Taylor; Theatre of Early MusicRCA Red Seal 88697727222As founder andartistic director ofthe Montreal-basedTheatre of EarlyMusic (TEM) anda singer of internationalrenownwith over 60 recordingsto his credit,Canadian countertenor Daniel Taylor isnow at a point in his career where, on theSony label, he headlines a recording thatcounts among its vocal performers DameEmma Kirkby, Michael Chance and CharlesDaniels as well as Carol Sampson and NealDavies. Drawing on repertoire inspiredby, referred to or performed in the plays ofShakespeare, this is a delightful and variedcollection of solos, duets and madrigalscomplemented by adept instrumentalistsfrom two different ensembles: TEM’sElizabeth Kenny and Jacob Heringman onlute and Fretwork’s Richard Boothby andRichard Campbell on viola da gamba. Amost wonderful confluence occurs in thevarious combinations of voices as in OrlandoGibbons’ The Silver Swan and particularlywhen countertenors Taylor and Chance duetin Robert Jones’ Sweet Kate and ThomasMorley’s Sweet nymph, come to thy lover.Purcell’s By Beauteous softness and If musicbe the food of love as well as Johnson’s FullFathom Five are interpreted with tenderaffect by Taylor, Sampson and Davies respectively.Charles Daniels is given the titletrack and Emma Kirby adds a light-heartedflavour to Now what is love? This collection,recorded in London, is highly recommendedas a feast of love for a mid-summer’s night.—Dianne WellsMozart – Don GiovanniGerald Finley; Glyndebourne;Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment;Vladimir JurowskiEMI 0 72017 9It seems that inevery baritone’scareer, a DonGiovanni will happen.Given thatthere are some tremendousbaritonesout there, it wouldmean many a splendid production. Not necessarilyso, unfortunately — just ask poorBrett Polegato, trapped in the COC’s tepidand messy effort. Surrounded by sub-parvoices and dressed as a low-rent gigolo, evenPolegato’s beautiful interpretation of the rolecould not save the production. Gerald Finleyfares much better at Glyndebourne — theKent production works for the most part andthe principals are uniformly splendid, eventhough the OAE playing is uncharacteristicallylow energy. Nobody needs convincingthat Finley is one of the best Giovanni’son record — here less gigolo and moreBerlusconi’s “Bunga Bunga” in the contemporizedproduction. He is not tragic, butsimply oblivious to the havoc he wreaks — anarcissistic psychopath if there ever wasone. But it is Kate Royal, as confused andheartbroken Donna Elvira who steals theshow. Luca Pisaroni, in a fine voice, isnot cynical enough as Leporello, even inthe Catalogue Aria, but sounds beautifullythroughout. Isabel Leonard, beautiful tolisten and look at, seems a tad too sophisticatedas the naïve country bumpkin. Theoccasionally revolving set works well, exceptfor the chase scenes and the finale. The mostgrievous harm of this production is done tothe Commendatore. Traditionally, the statueand its subsequent re-animation are a sourceof a chill down the spine. Here, the freshlydug-out zombie evokes unwanted comedy,not horror. Ah, if only opera directors knewwhen to leave well enough alone …—Robert TomasThe Ballad SingerGerald Finley; Julius DrakeHyperion CDA67830Singers cravenovel material fortheir recordings:obscure works, cherishedfavourites …whatever it takesto create temptingnew song packages.Baritone GeraldFinley’s recent release samples the Balladrepertoire and offers a wonderfully chosenprogram ranging from dark gothic musingsof 19th century German and Englishcomposers to the devilishly clever writing ofCole Porter.Finley lives up to his reputation for consistentand solid performance meeting theneed of each ballad’s text with an impressivedramatic acuity that elevates the finestsingers above the rest of their colleagues.Most notable is his amazing portrayal of thedemon in Schubert’s Erlkönig where he assumesa strangely nasal vocal character anddeliberately sings the Erlkönig’s extendedpassages just slightly flat to drive home theevil in the text. I’ve never heard this donebefore and it’s stunningly effective.Similarly, Hugo Wolf’s Der Feuerreiteralso offers some character vocal momentsthat most singers simply never attempt.Perhaps the biggest surprise is Finley’s multipleimpersonations of narrator, mollusc andsocialite in Cole Porter’s The Tale of TheOyster. Eating at a seafood restaurant willnever be the same.Long-time accompanist and artisticpartner Julius Drake does so much morethan just play the notes to back-up the voice.In Mahler’s Wo die schönen Trompetenblasen he crafts a remarkable orchestral colourpalette from the keyboard. Drake knowshow to be pianistically comedic as well asdramatic, romantic as well as impish. Hisartistic contribution is a significant reasonfor this disc’s success.—Alex BaranEARLY & PERIOD PERFORMANCEBach – Suites and PartitasDom Andre LabergeAnalekta AN 2 9767If we neededreminding of theinventiveness, adaptabilityand wideranginginfluence ofBach’s music, thisrecording providesample evidence. Thefour major worksare pieces Bach wrote for instruments otherthan the harpsichord, including violin (Aminor sonata, BWV 1003 and famous Dminor Chaconne), lute (BWV 996) and ahybrid known as a “Lautenclavicymbel”(BWV 997). With the exception of theChaconne — which has been transcribed especiallyfor Laberge by Pierre Gouin — all ofthe transcriptions were made during Bach’slifetime by his students.Paradoxically, the most convincingperformance on the disc is of the leastsuccessful transcription. The solo violinsonata, BWV 1003, is a glorious work, fullof contrapuntal and melodic interest. Whentranscribed for harpsichord, however, thesound alternates between being too thinor — when the “implied” harmonies of theviolin are filled in — too thick and literal.Perhaps sensing this challenge, Laberge’sperformance is brilliant, free and exciting,most particularly in the sensational fugue.This is in contrast to the somewhat carefuland reserved approach to the rest of the materialon the recording.Laberge’s 1987 Dowd harpsichord recordswell and its warm and majestic sound suitsits classy and formal owner, who is the organistand Abbot at the Benedictine Abbeyof Saint-Benoît-du-Lac in Quebec.—Larry BeckwithThe Sacred Bridge –Jews and Christians in Medieval EuropeBoston Camerata; Joel CohenApex 2564 69895-6Early music for many spans over 600years to the mid-eighteenth century. Thissingle CD takes in music from preciselythose six centuries. They were an exhilaratingtime although this recording also62 thewholenote.comJuly 1–September 7, 2011

displays deep andsometimes sad contrasts.Some of themusic was composedand performed inJewish ghettoes,some emanatedfrom the Jews’ contemporaryChristianpersecutors — and yet both communitieswere interdependent.This interdependence was traced by JoelCohen 22 years ago in the original “SacredBridge” now available on the Apex budgetlabel. At its most intricate Latin and Hebrewversions of Psalm 114 are interwoven line byline, declaimed by tenor, baritone and countertenor.As if that is not complex enough, JoelCohen turns to Jewish minstrels at ChristianCourts. One wonders whether Matthew le Juifwas actually this composer’s name at court.For all that, John Fleagle (tenor) does him justice,as Michael Collver’s counter-tenor doesSuesskint von Trimberg’s Wa heb’uf.In fact, Cohen’s selections are not all ascomplicated in their context. Jewish Folkloreof the Eastern Mediterranean takes onethrough Jews in Provence and among Jewsexiled from Spain. Again, the countertenormakes his presence felt as does AnneAzéma’s soprano in Morena me llaman andCansoun d’Esther.And finally, a large number of tracks interpretthe songs of Spain before the exileof 1492. King Alfonso the Wise attractsCohen’s attention; Collver’s impassionedMadre de Deus, ora por nos explains whythis monarch is so respected among earlymusic enthusiasts.—Michael SchwartzCLASSICAL & BEYONDClara and Robert Schumann – Piano TriosCastle TrioFriends of Music FOM 36-801(www.smithsonian.org)Robert Schumann – Complete Worksfor Piano TrioLeif Ove Andsnes; Christian Tetzlaff;Tanja TetzlaffEMI 0 94180 2The Americanwriter CatherineDrinker Bowenonce referred tochamber music as“a conversation betweenfriends.” I’velong thought this avery apt description,and what better way to get ourselves in themood for all the chamber music being heardat numerous festivals this summer thansampling these two recordings, featuringmusic by Robert and Clara Schumann? Thefirst, on the Friends of Music label presentsClara’s only completed four-movement work,the Piano Trio Op.17, and her husband’smore familiar Piano Trio Op.63, performedby the Castle Trio. The second is a doubledisc featuring Schumann’s complete worksfor piano trio with Leif Ove Andsnes andChristian and Tanja Tetzlaff on EMI.Clara Schumann’s Trio Op.17 and theTrio Op.63 by Robert were written within ayear of each other, between 1846 and 1847,and both are now recognized as amongthe best of their output. Although Claraonce described her trio as “effeminateand sentimental” there is no denying thefine craftsmanship displayed within. TheAmerican-based Castle Trio — LambertOrkis, piano, Marilyn McDonald, violin,and Kenneth Slowik, cello — play witha finely-balanced precision and theirexemplary interpretation is further enhancedby the decision to perform on earlyinstruments, including an 1846 Streichergrand piano. To those used to modern-daychamber performances, the thinner, moretransparent sound heard here may be a littledisconcerting, but at the very least, theresult is an accurate representation of howthe music would have originally been heard.The partnershipamong pianist LeifOve Andsnes withviolinist ChristianTeztlaff and hissister, cellist TanjaTetzlaff, is a notinfrequent one,and their performanceon this EMI recording is everythingwe’d expect from three outstanding players.Included in the set are the three piano trios,the Fantasiestücke Op.88, as well as the SixEtudes in Canonic Form Op.56, as arrangedby Theodor Kirchner. Indeed, there is muchto admire here — the playing is at times boldand impassioned, imbued with the true romanticspirit. Yet sections such as the secondmovement of the Piano Trio No.2 display awonderful sense of intimacy, with the celloparticularly warm and resonant. The fourFantasiestücke Op.88 are an attractive bonus,with the Marche finale bringing both theset and the collection to a buoyant and optimisticconclusion. In all, these are two fineadditions to the catalogue; surely Robert andClara would nod their heads in approval.—Richard HaskellLive from Lugano 2010Martha Argerich and FriendsEMI 0 70836 2Once again, in June 2010 in Lugano(Switzerland) “the hills are alive with thesound of music.” Those lucky enough to finda hotel room can enjoy Martha Argerich’sfamous festival with many of today’s mosttalented young musicians playing soloand chamber music. Martha is as good asever but her interests now extend towardsa) teaching andinspiring the youngand b) getting involvedwith chamberworks as well asnew adventurousprojects, new musicand even jazz. Thisyear, apart fromnearly 20 young artists, we have her usualstalwarts like the amazing brothers, violinistRenaud and cellist Gautier Capuçon andeven her ex-husband the famous pianistStephen Kovacevich.2010 being the year of 200th anniversariesfor Schumann and Chopin these are dutifullycelebrated with Schumann’s Violin Sonatain a minor played beautifully by RenaudCapuçon and Argerich and his Adagio andAllegro Op. 70 for cello and piano, performedwith Gautier Capuçon. To honourChopin there is a wonderfully relaxedperformance of one of Martha’s long timefavourites the E minor piano concerto.But here ends the “traditional” part andthe “adventurous” now begins. First comesa fiendishly difficult transcription for twopianos of Liszt’s Les Preludes presaging nextyear’s Liszt celebrations. Erich Korngold’srarely heard, feverishly overheated post-Straussian Piano Quintet still harkens backto late Romanticism but not the next work.Bartok’s Sonata for 2 pianos and percussionis from the composer’s “barbaric” period,a relentlessly percussive, uncompromisingpiece. If some listeners think it is “ugly”then Bartok actually achieved his purpose. Itis played with great aplomb and exuberanceby Argerich and Kovacevich. It had alreadybeen recorded by these two but alas that discwas deleted from the catalogue. Now withthis set thankfully it is back.I doubt Stravinsky ever heard Carlo MariaGriguoli’s three piano version of the FirebirdSuite but he would certainly have approvedof this stunning virtuoso arrangement playedby three young pianists including the arrangerhimself. Now for a suitable endingof this fascinating set, terrifying noises ofthe big city emanate from Alfred Schnittke’sPiano Quintet (1976). Fully atonal withplenty of quarter tones we hear sirens ofan ambulance at one point and at anotherunbearable noise of a swarm of hornetsclosing in around one’s head. Yet at the endironically there is heavenly peace inspired byBeethoven’s Pastoral Symphony.—Janos GardonyiKeeping Score: Mahler –Origins and LegacyMichael Tilson Thomas;San Francisco SymphonySFSMediaThis is the third season of the SanFrancisco Symphony’s admirable “KeepingScore” music documentary series, a projectthat can be followed on certain PBS stations(unfortunately Buffalo’s WNED is notJuly 1–September 7, 2011 thewholenote.com 63

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