8 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 2 - October 2012

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y Silvia Tro Santafe, a

y Silvia Tro Santafe, a Spanish mezzo with aspectacular vocal range. And we mustn’t forgetthe third principal, Werner van Mechelen,a Belgian baritone who made Sancho Panzahis own.A joy to watch, never boring, much laughterand touching tenderness make this a veryrewarding evening’s entertainment.—Janos GardonyiMercadante – Don Chisciottealle nozze di GamaccioUgo Guagliardo; Domenico Colaianni;Laura Catrani; San Pietro a MajellaChorus, Naples; Czech Chamber Soloists,Brno; Antonino FoglianiNaxos 8.660312-13!!Cervantes’ huge,epoch making novelfrom 1605, the first“novel” ever written,has inspired morethan one musicaltreatment not tomention the magnificenttone poemby Richard Strauss, but there is one curiosityjust recently emerged. At the well establishedand respected Rossini in Wildbad Festival, atotally forgotten opera (not performed in thelast 150 years!) was unearthed. The composerwas Saverio Mercadante (1795-1870), a contemporaryof Rossini and Donizetti, an Italianwho did much of his work in Spain. Hismusic is much under the influence of Rossiniwith some originalities explained competentlyin the liner notes.To me the interesting thing is how eachcomposer approached this enormous novel.Massenet compressed the work into a fewsignificant scenes, but Mercadante chose anentirely different venue by selecting only oneepisode, the 20th chapter, where Don Quixoteprevents a forced marriage of a farm girl to awealthy suitor instead of her poor lover. Themusic is delightful throughout with all-pervasiveSpanish rhythms, but the opera reallytakes off when Don Quixote (Ugo Guagliardo)enters the scene. The entry of the powerfulbasso profundo voice with vocal acrobaticsand strong characterization turns theopera into the extraordinary, much likewhat Rossini did in his Maometto Secondo.Laura Catrani, the country girl and her loverHans Ever Mogollon (tenor) are beautifulfresh voices and there is no weakness inthe supporting roles either. Rossini specialistAntonino Fogliani conducts with a strongimpulse and forward momentum to draw athunderous ovation.—Janos GardonyiAlways find more reviews onlineat thewholenote.comEARLY & PERIOD PERFORMANCELes Gouts AccordesEsteban La Rotta; Jivko Georgiev;Margaret Little; Katelyn ClarkATMA ACD2 2673!!Louis XIVwanted to bring ethniccohesion to hiswestern Europeanmini-empire. Realisingculture would play apart in this, he broughtItalian-born GiovanniBattista Lulli to hiscourt and rebranded him as Jean-BaptisteLully. This CD brings us Lully and Robert deVisée (who actually was French-born) andothers such as Jean-Baptiste Barrière whocomposed in the Sun King’s wake.Barrière’s second and sixth trio sonatasbring out a rich resonant quality in the theorbo.This continues in the allegro movementswith a part for viola da gamba which playsthe spritely gigue that ends both sonatas. Thetheorbo is, above all, given a chance to showcaseitself with de Visée’s A Minor theorbosuite. Here, the incorporation of more livelydance-based movements, the gavotte and rondeau,enhance the enjoyment of the suite andEsteban La Rotta’s dexterity manifests itself.Finally, there is a theorbo solo where deVisée arranges the “Ritournelles des Fées”from Lully’s opera Roland. In the hands of LaRotta the solo underlines just how versatilethe theorbo was at a time when it was beingchallenged in every area of performance bythe harpsichord. Indeed, it also demonstrateshow effective the combination of Lully andde Visée was in forming a cohesive Frenchmusical tradition.—Michael SchwartzCLASSICAL & BEYONDBusoni – Clarinet Concertino; FluteDivertimento; Rondo alecchinescoGiammorco Casani; Laura Minguzzi;Gianluca Terranova; Orchestra Sinfonicadi Roma; Francesco La VecchiaNaxos 8.572922!!The Italian maestroFrancesco da Vecchia,who favoured us lastseason with an ambitiousnew recordingof Busoni’s gargantuanPiano Concerto,continues his championingof the musicof Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) with a generoussampling of shorter orchestral worksby this sorely underrated composer whoseinimitable compositions have long been overshadowedby his towering reputation as alegendary performer. The centrepieces of thepresent disc are two single movement windconcertos. Giammarco Casani is the exceedinglysuave soloist in the Clarinet Concertinowhile Laura Minguzzi provides an appropriatelysprightly interpretation of the mercurialDivertimento for flute and small orchestra.My only grievance with these interpretationsis that they are engineered with thesoloists forced unrealistically forward in thesonic mix.An additional quartet of purely orchestralworks presents a broad chronologicaloverview of Busoni’s stylistic development,commencing with the bustling neo-classicalComedy Overture of 1897, the moody,otherworldly Song of the Spirit Dance withits striking aboriginal references inspiredby Busoni’s foray to America, followed bythe sardonic Rondò arlecchinesco (bothfrom 1915) and concluding with Busoni’slast orchestral work, the Viennese-accentedTanzwalzer of 1920.In an unusual practice for Naxos, there aretwo different sets of liner notes, the usualprosaic English version by the ubiquitousRichard Whitehouse and, as best as I can tell,a considerably more insightful Italian essay byTommaso Manera.—Daniel Foley10tenThingEMI Classics 088326 2!!A few monthsago I reviewed theCD Storyteller byNorwegian trumpeterTine Thing Helsethwith orchestra andpiano accompaniment.Now she is backwith a ten memberall woman brass ensemble called tenThing.This group, in instrumentation and sound,more closely resembles an enlarged brassquintet that a small brass band. The groupconsists of four trumpets, three tenor trombones,one bass trombone, one French hornand one tuba. The opener is a rousing versionof a Carmen Suite arranged for the groupby Roger Harvey. The group’s precise articulationcomes to the fore in their rendition ofAsturias by Albéniz. It’s not just the trumpets;the trombone and tuba always come throughcrisp and clean.For me, a welcome inclusion is a sevenmovement suite from Kurt Weill’s ThreepennyOpera. The trombone playing in particularcaptures the spirit that Weill would havewanted; Mack the Knife and Polly come to life.Two impressionistic works by Astor Piazzollaadd a bit of Latin flavour, and a spirited renditionof Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca provides thereal fiery component of this compilation.There is no attempt to showcase theleader or any other member on this recording.Throughout, Helseth and her cohorts aremembers of the tight ensemble. The recordingquality is top notch with 68 minutes of var-66 October 1 – November 7, 2012

ied listening pleasure. Unfortunately, the discis devoid of any biographical information,which is particularly annoying for the lesserknown figures such as Dutch composer JanBaroque specialist Rachel Podger is inmagnificent form on a new 2-CD set ofVivaldi’s La Cetra – 12 Violin ConcertosOp.9, with matching support from theHolland Baroque Society (Channel ClassicsCCS SA 33412). Podger is technically superb inall respects in concertos which demand a veryhigh level of playing, managing to make themsound effortless but never empty and crystalclear and precise without ever lackingwarmth. The outstandingaccompaniment is lively, brightand full of dynamic contrast,with a continuo group consistingof organ and two lutes in additionto the usual cello and harpsichordsounding particularly effective inthe solo violin passages. There’s theusual Vivaldi display of seeminglyendless circles of fifths, scale andarpeggio passages and sequences,of course, plus the false familiarity— there are moments when youcould swear you’ve put the FourSeasons on by mistake — but theseare concertos that have enoughvariation to easily hold your interestthroughout the two discs.Recorded in Amsterdam, thewonderful sound quality addsto the enjoyment of a marvellousissue; this is simply one ofthe best Vivaldi sets you are everlikely to hear.It’s been a long time since anystring quartet CD had an impact onme to equal that of the latest issuefrom the Barcelona-based Cuarteto Casals, butstunning performances of the Schubert StringQuartets D.87 and D.877 (harmonia mundiHMC 902121) left me quite lost for words.Despite his tragically short life — or maybebecause of it — Schubert managed to plumbdepths in his later music that few composershave ever matched, let alone exceeded. Thetwo quartets on this CD are from opposite endsof his career: the E-Flat Major D87 is the workof a 16-year-old who regularly played quartetsat home with his family members, while theG Major D887 is Schubert’s final quartet, writtenin 1826 just two years before his death. Thestring quartet genre hadn’t really been aroundall that long at the time — only 50 or 60 years orso — but the emotional and technical distancethat Schubert traveled in the 13 years that separatethe two works is simply remarkable. Thee-flat quartet is a charming and interestingwork that owes much to Haydn and Mozart,TERRY ROBBINSKoetsier, who gets no mention although histhree movement Brass Symphony, Op.80 andanother shorter work are included.—Jack MacQuarriebut the g major is a worthy contemporaryof the late Beethoven quartets. And what anastonishing work it is! — powerful, turbulent,full of wonderful theatrical and symphoniceffects, and given a rich, fully committedperformance by the Cuarteto Casals, whosepassion and dynamic range perfectly matchthe emotional range of the music. Their wonderfulplaying is beautifully recorded,with perfect balance andjust the right amount ofresonance. A simply outstandingdisc.I’m sure most of ushave a favourite composerwhom we feelis unjustly neglectedor underperformed. Onesuch for me is the BelgianbornGuillaumeLekeu, who was justestablishing himselfin Paris after studyingwith César Franckand Vincent d’Indywhen he died suddenlyof typhoid fever the dayafter his 24th birthday in1894. ATMA has releaseda CD of his Trio et Quatuor avecpiano (ACD2 2651) featuring theCanadian Trio Hochelaga withthe TSO principal violist TengLi. Both works are very muchof their time and clearly in thesame style as those of Franck andd’Indy. The Piano Trio is the larger work, andthe only completed one of the two; the PianoQuartet was unfinished at Lekeu’s death,and needed an additional few bars fromd’Indy to make the second movement performable.It’s a shame it’s incomplete: Lekeuwas a late starter, despite his early demise,and it’s clear that a more personal voice wasbeginning to emerge in this work. The TrioHochelaga — violinist Anne Robert, cellist PaulMarleyn and pianist Stéphane Lemelin — givefull-bodied and committed performances,although I found the violin vibrato to be a bittoo wide and heavy at times, threatening tocompromise the intonation and making theunison runs with the cello sound a bit out ofsynch. Overall, the feeling here is not so muchone of masterpieces all too few, but more oneof future masterpieces unfulfilled and of hugepromise cruelly cut short.It’s interesting to note how, in recent years,a good deal of contemporary compositionin the U.S. appears to have swung back toworks with a strong tonal base, often with astrong cinematic feel to them. A recent NaxosCD (8.559723) in their excellent AmericanClassics series features performances by theLondon Symphony Orchestra under JoAnnFalletta of five works by Kenneth Fuchs,who was born in 1956. This is actually thethird Naxos album of Fuchs’ works by thisteam — Falletta and Fuchs have been collaboratingfor over 25 years — and it showsa lyrical composer with great imaginationand a fine ear for orchestral colour. Twoorchestral works — Atlantic Riband and theoverture Discover the Wild — open and closethe disc. Falletta is joined by her BuffaloPhilharmonic concertmaster, the outstandingMichael Ludwig, for American Rhapsody(Romance for violin and orchestra) and bythe LSO’s Paul Silverthorne for DivinumMysterium (Concerto for viola and orchestra),which was written for theperformer. Both soloists are intop form, with Ludwig’s beautifultone again fully evident. TheConcerto Grosso for string quartetand string orchestra completesthe CD. Despite the occasionalsuggestion of an English influence— Britten’s Sea Interludesin the Atlantic Riband and theDivinum Mysterium, for instance,or Vaughan Williams’ LarkAscending in the Rhapsody — thisis music firmly in the Americanmainstream tradition. Thereare more than a few hints ofCopland and the American pastorale;at times, though, you couldbe forgiven for thinking that you were listeningto music for a major motion picture or atop level television news or sports program.OPUS 1 (Azica ACD-71274) is the impressivedebut recording by the Israeli ChamberProject, a group of distinguished young Israelimusicians that was founded in 2008. All ofthe six members featured on this CD — ItamarZorman (violin), Shmuel Katz (viola),Michal Korman (cello), Tibi Cziger (clarinet),Sivan Magen (harp) and Assaff Weisman(piano) — are established and experiencedperformers in their own right, with veryimpressive backgrounds and résumés. Theplaying, not surprisingly, is of the highestquality throughout a varied but always interestingprogram. The Saint-Saëns Fantasie forViolin and Harp, Op.124 from 1907, is one ofseveral pieces that the composer wrote for theharp; it’s a simply lovely work that beautifullyillustrates his understanding of the instrument.Martinů’s Chamber Music No.1, writtenonly five months before his death in 1959, isthe only work to use all six players. It’s fullof folk rhythms, with a slow movement reminiscentof Bartòk’s “night music.” MatanPorat’s Night Horses was commissioned for,and dedicated to, the Israeli Chamber Project,who specifically requested the instrumentationof clarinet, violin, cello and piano tomatch that of Messiaen’s Quatuor pour leOctober 1 – November 7, 2012 67

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