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Volume 27 Issue 6 | April 15 - May 27, 2022

  • Text
  • Thewholenotecom
  • Violin
  • Theatre
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Vol 27 No. 6. Here’s some of it: “Growing up in a house full of riches” – the Kanneh-Masons; “As if the music knows what it is doing” – J.S. Bach; “Better experienced than described” – Women from Space; “Stories set in prehistoric times are notoriously difficult to pull off without invoking nervous laughter” – Orphan Song; “To this day when I look at an audience, there’s some part of me that sees a whole bunch of friendly teddy bears wearing bow-ties” – Boris Brott. …. etc

meum, a setting of text

meum, a setting of text from the Song of Solomon, is a masterful display of chromatic part-writing, while An den Wassern zu Babel uses polychoral techniques to great effect, made even more so through the antiphonal panning present in the audio itself. A magnificent ensemble with an equally gifted director, Les Cris de Paris and Geoffroy Jourdain are in fine form on David & Salomon, which is highly recommended to Schütz aficionados everywhere. Matthew Whitfield Resurrexi! – Easter in Vienna with Mozart and the Haydn Brothers The Choir of Keble College Oxford; Instruments of Time & Truth; Paul Brough CRD Records CR 3539 (keble.ox.ac.uk/ about/music) ! It has been suggested that Mozart may have written sacred music to remain in favour with his patrons. This is unlikely, but even if it is true it makes no difference to the meaning of the music, for the music of Resurrexi – the Easter mass – expresses a deep, childlike and unquestioning faith, while being quintessentially Mozart: questing and pious, yet at the same time, irresistibly joyful. Director Paul Brough has added two additional pieces to this full mass: a Sequenza by Michael Haydn celebrating the paschal lamb which includes the plainchant; and the heartfelt and passionate Te Deum by the great Joseph Haydn that is, in every measure, as celebratory and full of nervous energy as the Mozart. Brough espouses that this recording is an object lesson in the music of liturgy. Indeed there is a profound depth and beauty in the exemplary declamation of chants such as Vidi aquam and the Pater Noster, and fervent and thrilling singing through the Sequenza to the Te Deum, by the Choir of Keble College, Oxford. The choir has mastered sustained, seamless legato singing; complemented with sensitive accompaniments by the Instruments of Time and Truth, the music is revelatory and rewarding. Voices, brass and reeds, timpani and strings inhabit this Latin liturgy with unaffected brilliance striking gold from the opening Regina Cœli by Mozart to the fervent account of Haydn’s Te Deum at closing. Raul da Gama Riccardo Zandonai – Francesca da Rimini Sara Jakubiak; Jonathan Tetelman; Ivan Inverardi; Charles Workman; Deutsche Oper Berlin; Carlo Rizzi Naxos 2.110711 (naxosdirect.com/ search/2110711) ! In The Divine Comedy’s circle of Hell reserved for “carnal sinners,” Dante encounters Francesca and Paolo, historical 13th-century lovers murdered by Francesca’s husband, Paolo’s brother Gianciotto. Their story, which left Dante “overcome with pity,” has inspired numerous composers, including Liszt, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, none more persuasively than Riccardo Zandonai, whose melody-soaked, intensely dramatic 1914 opera deserves much greater renown. (In 1984 the Metropolitan Opera, with stars Renata Scotto and Plácido Domingo, brought it to Toronto’s International Festival; the DVD of this vocally and visually resplendent production is still available.) Unlike the Met’s historically appropriate medieval splendour, this 2021 Deutsche Oper Berlin production is senselessly updated to the early 20th century, with Guelfs and Ghibellines somehow still at war, absurdly still fighting with crossbows. Silent actors wander around without apparent function or purpose; the chorus, due to COVID restrictions, sings offstage. In contrast to the misconceived staging, this production’s musical values are superlative. Soprano Sara Jakubiak, the radiant Heliane in the Deutsche Oper DVD of Korngold’s Das Wunder der Heliane, is electrifying as the tormented Francesca. Jonathan Tetelman’s gleaming, clarion tenor and talldark-and-handsome looks make him an ideal Paolo, known as “Il Bello” (the Handsome). Heavy-set baritone Ivan Inverandi’s Gianciotto is suitably coarse in voice and appearance, though neither “crippled” nor “demonic” as described in the libretto. They and the other 12 fine soloists, together with Carlo Rizzi’s urgent, surging conducting of Zandonai’s impassioned score, deliver immensely rewarding operatic pleasures. Michael Schulman Stanley Grill – Und das Lied bleibt schön Lisa Rombach; Nicholas Spanos; Pandolfis Consort Gramola 90254 (stangrillcomposer.com) ! “I sometimes feel I was born 500 years too late,“ says New York native Stanley Grill (b.1953), alluding to his “passion” for the medieval and Renaissance music that imbues his melodies and the sonorities of the Vienna-based Pandolfis Consort’s four period instruments – viola d’amore, viola, cello and theorbo. Predominantly slow, melancholy songs, composed between 2009 and 2020, traverse memory, mysticism, love, suffering and death. Viennese soprano Lisa Rombach brings poignant, expressive vibrato to settings of eight poems by Rainer Maria Rilke and three poems by Jewish women – Rose Ausländer (1901-1988), who survived the Holocaust and Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger (1924-1942), who didn’t (note her dates). Greek countertenor Nicholas Spanos hauntingly evokes a medieval troubadour in Les Fugitifs (Rilke) while projecting a more Romantic sensibility in settings of Heinrich Heine’s Mit deinen blauen Augen and Ich wandle unter Blumen. I most enjoyed seven songs in which Grill favours more contemporary melodic contours over early-music modality: Eingang and Klage (Rilke), Schnee and In jenen Jahren (Ausländer), the two Heine songs and Ein Schlaflied für dich (Meerbaum-Einsinger). Grill channels Renaissance vibes in his three-movement instrumental Lieder ohne Worte (2009), its central Moderato providing one of the CD’s rare bits of energy. The prevailing moodiness makes this a disc best suited for dipping into. I would have welcomed some more up-tempo music and a clearer acoustic; perhaps the heavy reverb was intended to simulate the ambience of a medieval cathedral. Texts and translations are included. Michael Schulman Rêves Enclos – Mélodies de Louis Dominique Roy Olivier Laquerre; Louis Dominique Roy ATMA ACD2 2817 (atmaclassique.com/en) ! Cégep de Saint-Laurent piano professor/ pianist/composer Louis Dominique Roy set the poetry of numerous Quebec poets to create an accessible outstanding repertoire of vocal works from Quebec. As he writes in the liner notes, after realizing its need as a university vocal coach and accompanist, he composed over 60 works for all voices over nearly 25 years. Here, baritone Olivier Laquerre sings a number of these Québécois melodies to Roy’s piano accompaniment, 44 | April 15 - May 27, 2022 thewholenote.com

with special guests cellist Sébastien Lépine and hornplayer Louis- Philippe Marsolais on select tracks. Roy’s musical settings of poems by Émile Nelligan, Éloi de Grandmont, Alfred Desrochers, Arthur de Bussières, Hector de Saint-Denys-Garneau and Gilles Vigneault, as well as three Scandinavian poems about death translated into French, are included. Roy respectfully sets the texts with masterful musical vocal lines and varying piano accompaniments. Nelligan’s Amour immaculé is Romantic flavoured, featuring a build to louder fuller piano chords under lower pitched quasi operatic vocals. Roy set three Grandmont poems for all four musicians especially for this recording. Held horn and vocal notes blend perfectly above detached piano chords, with closing movement adding cello plucks in L’âge des rêves. Lépine composed his own cello part to Roy’s setting of five Vigneault poems. Aubes is uplifting with lower vocals/piano contrasted by higher cello sounds. Great to hear Roy perform two of his solo piano works, especially the pianistic imagery of moving sea waves in Vol des oiseaux au-dessus de la mer. All performances and compositions shine with literary and musical excitement. Tiina Kiik CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Sopra La Spagna La Spagna; Alejandro Marías Lukos Records 5451CRE201665 (laspagna.es) ! Ambitious is perhaps the best word to describe this CD. The mass Agnus Dei was set to many tunes. One of them was the already very wellknown Basse Danse La Spagna which subsequently became a setting for Agnus Dei throughout Europe. The ensemble on this CD has even taken La Spagna as its own name. In addition, it has sought to record here as many versions of La Spagna as it can find. Sometimes the settings are complex. It needs a composer of the calibre of Francesco Canova da Milano to write a complex lute variant, and yet sometimes there is a lively – very lively – simplicity, as in Francisco de la Torre’s version. In the latter all but one of La Spagna’s seven musicians perform, accompanied not least by the pronounced percussionplaying of Daniel Garay. This contrast between the intense and the spirited is borne out in the suite of six Recercadas sobre la Spagna by Diego Ortiz. Alejandro Marías digs deep into his command of the viola da gamba to interpret these demanding settings. La Spagna have been painstaking in their research. They have even uncovered A Spanish Humour, set by Tobias Hume. Hume must have been highly skillful in his talents; he had to be in one of them as he served as a mercenary! Which might account for the explosive introductory bars of his variation... It is very difficult to decide which setting of La Spagna is the most thoughtful or the most uplifting. If I had to choose, it would be that by de la Torre, with its loyalty to the intense quality of this sacred composition. Michael Schwartz Handel – Winged Hands, The Eight Great Suites and Overtures Francesco Corti Arcana A499 (naxosdirect.com/search/ a499) ! Interpretations of Handel’s Eight Great Suites have long been popular – and frequently recorded on either piano or harpsichord. The choice of instrument was made for Francesco Corti as his whole career has been with the latter. And it is his virtuoso playing which is showcased on this CD. Note from the beginning of the Gigue in the first Great Suite; a gigue may be written off as a whimsical moment casually tacked onto a supposedly more serious set of movements but in this case Corti breathes dedication and meaning into his performance. There are 39 movements to the Great Suites. Selecting those that most bring out Corti’s mastery of the harpsichord is difficult. I thoroughly enjoyed his interpretation of No 6. There is a real dignity to his Presto, contrasted by the concluding Gigue. Corti’s demonstrated mastery is not confined to the suites however. The Ouverture [largo] to Rodelinda commences – and ends – with his imparting a glissando flourish which bookends Handel’s Presto and Adagio, themselves played with real spirit. Finally, Babell’s First Set in F Major gives an all-too-tantalizing glimpse into those all-toomany composers who flourished in Handel’s time but were overshadowed by him. This is the third recording of the Great Suites I have reviewed for The WholeNote. Conti’s interpretation exemplifies why I will never tire of this Handel masterpiece Michael Schwartz CPE Bach – Sonatas & Rondos Marc-Andre Hamelin Hyperion Records CDA68381 (hyperionrecords.co.uk/dw.asp?dc=W22447_68381) ! “He is the father and we are the children. Anybody who knows anything at all learned it from him.” Lofty words of praise indeed coming from no less a figure than Mozart in reference – not to JS Bach as we might assume – but to his second surviving son Carl Philipp Emanuel. Born in Weimar in 1714, CPE Bach was an accomplished composer and performer. His extensive keyboard output included 400 solo sonatas, fantasias and other works, all of it demonstrating considerable innovation and impeccable craftsmanship exemplified here in this two-disc Hyperion recording of sonatas and rondos performed by Marc-André Hamelin. The 56 tracks – a true choice of riches – follow Bach’s compositional career from 1725 to 1787 and what is particularly striking is the diversity in musical style these pieces contain, all within a classical framework. Some of them, such as the Sonata in E Minor Wq59/1 and the Rondo in E Major Wq58/3 show tendencies towards the north German “expressive style” with sudden changes in tempo and key signature while others like the Arioso with Seven Variations in C Major Wq118/10 are pure galanterie. Throughout, Hamelin performs with a polished assurance, his playing at all times thoughtfully nuanced. His flawless technique particularly comes to the fore in such works as the presto finale of the Fantasia in C Major Wq61/6. This recording is an exemplary addition to the catalogue. Not only does it shine light on music that deserves greater recognition, but it proves – if proof is needed – that despite Hamelin’s usual focus on virtuosic 19th-century repertoire, he is a master at anything he decides to approach. Excellent notes and attractive packaging are further bonuses. Richard Haskell Mozart; Strauss – Oboe Concertos Cristina Gómez Godoy; West-Eastern Divan Orchestra; Daniel Barenboim Warner Classics (warnerclassics.com/ release/mozart-strauss-oboe-concertos) ! Oboist Cristina Gómez Godoy enchants listeners on Mozart & Strauss Oboe Concertos. Directed by Daniel Barenboim, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra skillfully manoeuvres both works with chamber music-like sensitivity. Although these two pieces are an unusual pairing for an album, they are the staple of every oboist’s musical library. Gómez Godoy chose to record these thewholenote.com April 15 - May 27, 2022 | 45

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