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Volume 20 Issue 1 - September 2014

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VOCALAlma & Gustav

VOCALAlma & Gustav Mahler – LiederKaren Cargill; Simon LepperLinn LC 11615Mahler – LiederBernarda Fink; Anthony Spiri; GustavMahler Ensemble; Tonkünstler OrchesterNiederösterreich; Andrés Orozco-EstradaHarmonia Mundi MNC 902173Scottish mezzoKaren Cargill, trainedin Glasgow, Toronto(with Patricia Kern)and London, is in theearly stages of aburgeoning career.This recording marksher debut recital onthe Glasgow-based Linn record label. The discoffers a comparatively rare opportunity tohear the Fünf Lieder by Alma Mahler (1879-1964) published in 1910, along with twomajor song cycles by her husband Gustav. Theyoung Alma Schindler, Mahler’s fetching22-year-old composition student and sometimelover of Alexander Zemlinsky when thetwo first met, was persuaded to abandon hercreative pursuits before agreeing to marry thefirst of her many husbands in 1902, though atthe end of his life (1860-1911) a repentant andcuckolded Gustav arranged to have her songspublished by Universal Edition. Zemlinsky’sinfluence looms large in these erotically chromaticand assuredly accomplished Liederwhich are given highly sympathetic readingshere. The set is followed by Gustav Mahler’sFünf Rückert Lieder and the four-movementLieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, closing witha passionate rendition of the Urlicht movementfrom his Second Symphony. Cargill isblessed with an enormous and opulent voicewhich in full flight can reach operaticvolumes, notably so in the triumphantconclusion of Um Mitternacht from theRückert Lieder, though a certain breathinessbecomes apparent when her powerful voice isdrawn back. Veteran accompanist SimonLepper provides immaculate supportthroughout. The otherwise enjoyable andwell-recorded disc seems rather skimpy at amere 53 minutes.An artist of exceptionalsensitivity andgreat emotional depth,Bernarda Fink is anArgentinian singerof Slovenian extractionbest knownfor her Baroque-eraperformances. Withthis disc she reveals a sympathy for the musicof Mahler comparable to the great Mahlersingers of the past such as Christa Ludwigand Janet Baker. The programming of thisexcellent Harmonia Mundi release (aptlysubtitled “A Life in Songs”) is innovative,including two very rarely heard early songs,Im Lenz and Winterlied; Arnold Schoenberg’s1920 arrangement for chamber ensembleof the complete Lieder eines fahrendenGesellen; the mournful Kindertotenliedercycle with full orchestra; and selections fromhis Rückert Lieder in various orchestral andpiano versions for a generous duration of78 minutes. Pianist Anthony Spiri and Finkcollaborate wonderfully well together andthe young Colombian conductor AndrésOrosco-Estrada (recently appointed to leadthe Houston Symphony) proves equally sensitiveto the subtle nuances of her deeply feltinterpretations. This is truly a recordingto treasure.Daniel FoleyStrauss – CapriccioFleming; Skovhus; Schade; Eiche;Kirchschlager; Rydl; Wiener Staatsoper;Marco Arturo MarelliCmajor 715908Fresh from therapture of watchingthis video performanceof Strauss’ lastutterance in operaand recovering fromthe delirium of thestanding ovation, canI silence the skepticswho believe that operais dead and totallyirrelevant in our age?“They should eat theirwords” (to quote Bruce Surtees) after seeingthis production from the Wiener Staatsoper.This venerable opera house actually justrecently produced at least two phenomenalsuccesses including this one and a stupendousAnna Bolena.Richard Strauss, a genius who managedto revamp his earlier, very successful sturmund drang hyper-romantic style towards analmost Mozartian restraint and elegant classicismwithout losing his tremendous giftsof melody, advanced harmonies and overallstructural control of his material, is now 150years old (I use the present tense to emphasizejust how alive he is to me through hismusic). To celebrate this landmark Viennachose this, his most difficult and problematicopera, not Salome nor Der Rosenkavalier, butCapriccio, taking an enormous chance.The heroine, Renée Fleming as theCountess, pretty well owns this crown jewelof a role and there is no match for her presently.She had a difficult start as she is notgetting any younger, but she soars, grows instature and achieves heights in the last scenewhere even the Gods would fear to tread.Canadian tenor Michael Schade and Germanbaritone Markus Eiche, the frustrated wouldbelovers, are no disappointment either, butAngelika Kirschlager (mezzo) with her perfectGerman diction, wonderful stage presence,charming voice and sense of humourcertainly gives Fleming a run for her money.Kurt Rydl, in the comic role of the busybodyschauspieldirektor, certainly lives up tohis reputation as one of the great characterbasso-buffos of today. Swedish baritone BoShovkus is a bit outlandish in the role of theCount, but adds a lot of interest to the characterand his voice is excellent. In his WienerStaatsoper premiere, Christoph Eschenbach isin masterly control and gets able support fromhis virtuoso musicians. Special credit is due tothe young violinists in the opening very difficultstring sextet and to the wonderful hornsin the famous “Moonlight Intermezzo.”Director Marco Arturo Marelli’s conceptis surprisingly grandiose for this intimate,chamber-like opera, but the resplendent setsof a Rococo palace in vibrant, opulent coloursof blue and silver, translucent furnishings andabundance of mirrors never cease to delightthe eye. All the foregoing notwithstanding itis the underlying abundance of talent, goodtaste, charm and Viennese gemütlichkeitwhich carry the day and the birthday boy,Maestro Strauss, the big winner.Janos GardonyiL’Heure RoseHélène Guilmette; Martin DubéAnalekta AN 2 9141This is a revelationfor those wishing tolearn more about thefemale contemporariesof Fauré, Duparc,Debussy and Poulenc.Ten women composersof the 19th and 20thcenturies are representedon this recording: some we’ve beenintroduced to before (Viardot, Chaminade,L. & N. Boulanger, Beach) and others quiteunfamiliar (Holmès, Canal, Karveno, Landry).While perusing sheet music on Rue deRome in Paris in 2007, soprano HélèneGuilmette, found some excellent works byMel (Mélanie) Bonis, one of those who used apseudonym to get by in the male-dominatedworld of music publishing. Her story is oneof talent long-hidden; a marriage arranged byher parents to a man 25 years her senior leftlittle space to pursue her art. Only later, whenreunited with a long-lost love, a singer, didshe receive the encouragement she needed.Guilmette’s raison d’être for this collectionis “making these works better knownand honouring their memory.” Fin-desiècleParis is brought to life in these impressionisticsongs by Guilmette’s shimmeringvoice and long-time coach, collaborator andaccompanist Martin Dubé’s pianistic finesse.A few interesting later works are includedas well, such as cabaret actress/singer/composer Wally Karveno’s La robe de lune(1954) and Quebec-born Jeanne Landry’sÉmergence (1996).Dianne WellsRemembering Alfred DellerJames Bowman; Robin Blaze; John Turner;68 | September 1, 2014 – October 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

Laura RobinsonDivine Art dda 25114The countertenorAlfred Deller was bornin 1912 and I wonderif this CD had beenintended to mark hiscentenary. No matter,the disc is as welcomeas it would have beentwo years ago. Anobvious way of remembering Deller wouldhave been to reissue some of his recordingsbut the producers of the CD have hit on somethingmuch more imaginative. The recordingcommemorates not only Deller himself buttwo others who were central to the revivalof early music in the 40s and 50s: MichaelTippett and Walter Bergmann. It was Tippettwho discovered Deller in the choir stalls ofCanterbury Cathedral and who launched himin his solo career at Morley College.Bergmann had been a lawyer in Germanybut was forced to flee to England, where hestarted a new career as a music editor, harpsichordistand composer. The CD, whichfeatures two fine countertenors, JamesBowman and Robin Blaze with recorderplayers John Turner and Laura Robinson,includes John Blow’s Ode on the Death ofMr. Henry Purcell (which Deller himselfperformed and recorded) and also severalworks dedicated to Deller: Bergmann’shaunting Pastorale for countertenor andrecorder (1946) and the Three Songs forcountertenor and guitar (1973). It alsocontains Peter Racine Fricker’s Elegy, a workgiven its first performance by Deller.The recorder pieces (solo Inventions byTippett and trio sonatas by Handel andWilliam Williams) are less obviously relatedto the work of Deller but they serve to remindus that his emergence was part of the rediscoveryof early music.Hans de GrootEARLY MUSIC AND PERIOD PERFORMANCEHandel & PorporaJulie Boulianne; Clavecin en Concert; LucBeauséjourAnalekta AN 2 8764The Schulich Schoolof Music at McGillUniversity in Montrealis doing somethingright – the sheernumber of successful,outstanding graduateseclipses any otherCanadian hive of classicalmusic. Not to give too much credit to theschool (after all, Juilliard was involved too),Julie Boulianne is a born talent – a mezzoof rare beauty of voice, whose techniquematured rapidly since her debut recordingin 2006 (that album, with music by Berlioz,was nominated for a GRAMMY!). What awonderful choice of material here – the musicthat was the soundtrack of the battle royalbetween the Royal Academy of Music andthe Opera of the Nobility, between Handeland Porpora. Between 1733 and 1737, Londonaudiences were treated to a tight contest ofthe two great composers, the best castrati ofthe period and extravagantly staged operas.To be sure, both parties went over the top,losing thousands of pounds – the Opera of theNobility went bankrupt, the Royal Academynearly so, but Handel’s Atalanta turned outto be the coup de grace and Porpora leftLondon defeated. And we have been leftwith a treasure trove of music, none morerevered to this day than “Ombra mai fu” fromHandel’s Serse, delivered here by Bouliannewith a rarely heard delicacy and tenderness.Clavecin en Concert provide equally beautifulaccompaniment within a traditionally wellproducedAnalekta recording. Five out offive stars.Robert TomasSix TranscriptionsFrancis ColpronATMA ACD2 2677None of theworks on this CDwere written forthe recorder but,as Francis Colpronpoints out, in the 18thcentury composers didnot always prescribethe instruments onwhich their work should be performed.Consequently the works by Telemann, Marais,Bach and Tartini sound perfectly idiomatic. Itis true that this music often needs to be transcribed.The A minor solo sonata by Bach,for instance, has long been appropriated byrecorder players. But the baroque transverseflute went down to D and the alto recordergoes no lower than F. Consequently recorderplayers have to perform it in C minor whichmakes parts of the work very high and technicallydifficult. Needless to say, the highnotes provide no problem for Colpron.One work on this CD stands out asdifferent, the Caprice No.24 for solo violinby Paganini. The composer would neverhave imagined a performance of this workon the recorder as by 1820 (when it was firstpublished) the recorder was seen as totallyobsolete. Yet the transcription works: Colpronaptly sees it as a “translation” and he citesLiszt’s piano transcriptions of the Beethovensymphonies as an analogue.Colpron is brilliant throughout. I have oftenadmired his playing and I had the pleasure ofbeing coached by him in a recorder consortlast July. One thing I discovered then is thathis Dutch is impeccable and he will understandwhat I mean when I say that thisrecording is “uitstekend.”Hans de GrootHandel – 8 “Great” SuitesRichard EgarrHarmonia Mundi HMU 907581.82Handel – The Eight Great SuitesDanny DriverHyperion CDA68041/2Harpsichord orpiano for Handel? TwoCD collections havesimultaneously beenreleased, continuingto ask the question.Pianist Danny Driveropens the account forHyperion, his prelude(described in the sleeve notes as “ruminative”)being a thoughtful, cautious approachbefore the allemande, courante and gigue,not so far removed from their rural roots.Harpsichordist Richard Egarr is more cautiousin his courante before an excited gigue. Atthis early point, it is difficult to judge whichinstrument is the more suited.Suite 2 starts with a restful adagio followedby a highly spirited allegro, demanding forboth pianist and harpsichordist. Driver’sinterpretation would have communicated toan 18th-century harpsichord audience exactlywhat the piano still demands of its playersthree centuries on. The second adagio andallegro: fugue are a relaxing contrast. Egarrtackles with enthusiasm the first allegrowhich must be a highlight of the baroquerepertoire.And so to the contemplative Suite 3 and itsair with five gentle variations. This is thechance to take a breath and compare instruments.While much of early music was notscored for any particular instrument, onedoes wonder why a piano is selected; theharpsichord is not deficient in any way asEgarr’s glorious presto testifies. It may be thecase that harpsichords were not available inprevious decades: the piano was ready tostand in and this practice has never ceased.Suite 4 beginswith another allegro:fugue which is almosta cliché of baroquekeyboard playing. Its“hammer blows” are,in fact, more vigorouslyinterpreted byDriver’s piano playing– Egarr’s harpsichord is played with passionbut it is still overshadowed, a process repeatedwith the allemandes. There is a tendernessto both sarabandes and it is difficult to saywhich is the more sensitive.Driver’s piano-playing gives a thoughtfulnessto the Suite 5 prelude and allemandebefore its spirited courante. Egarr’s preludeand allemande are slower; perhaps that wordruminative applies to him this time round.And so to the air with five variations, theuniversally loved “Harmonious Blacksmith.”Driver is sensitive in his interpretation, Egarrmore virtuosic and more effervescent inthewholenote.com September 1, 2014 – October 7, 2014 | 69

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