5 years ago

Volume 9 Issue 7 - April 2004

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DISC VE RIES CD EDITOR'S CORNER condu~ting the Composers' Orchestra. Another extended work, The August Collection - 24 Preludes for Piano is given a commanding performance by Antonin Kubalek on "Polkas, Etudes & Preludes" (CBC MVCD 1059). The disc also features the rarely performed Polkas & Etudes by Bohuslav Martinu. I liave been informed that this disc is about to fall from the CBC catalogue so you may have to find it at the Canadian Music Centre ( www. musiccentre. ca), but it is certainly worth seeking out. Concert Note: There are performances of Walter Buczynski's music on April 4 and May 2 (Chrylark continued from page JO Concerts) and on April 16 there's an all-Buczynski program at Walter Hall. On a sadder note, Antonin Kubalek will perform Book 3 of Martinu's Polkas & Etudes as part of a celebration of the life of the late Eugene Kash at the Royal Conservatory on April 30. We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. Catalogues, review copies of CDs and comments should be sent to: WholeNote, 503 - 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also welcome your input via our website, David Olds Editor, DISCoveries OPERA AND VOCAL MUSIC Vivaldi: La verita in cimento Ensemble Matheus Jean-Christophe Spinosi, dir. OPUS 111 OP 30365 Vivaldi: Mottetti Academia Montis Regalis Alessandro de Marchi, dir. OPUS 111 OP 30340 Considering the popularity of Vivaldi's concertos, the relati:ve obscurity of his vocal music, apart from a few works like the Gloria RV589 and the Stabat Mater, is baffling. After all, he wrote over one hundred operas, although only about thirty seem to have survived. La verita in cimento, is delightful, especially when performed as stylishly as on this, its premiere recording. The brilliant orchestrations that make Vivaldi's concertos so irresistible are everywhere in evidence here, with colourful instrumentation and vivid word-painting. But what makes this opera work so well dramatically is Vivaldi's ability to paint psychological portraits. Through a bounty of splendid arias, as well as particularly effective recitatives, he develops each individual character, revealing depths of human emotion. The plot, which involves babies switched at birth, offers plenty of opportunities for genuine pathos, especially for the put-upon son, Zelim, sung exquisitely by young countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. Tenor Anthony Rolfe Johnson is suitably befuddled as the doltish ruler, foiled by contralto Nathalie Stutzmann's magnificently sultry and thrilling Ramira, the king's long-term mistress. Gemma Bertignoli makes a terrifically soubrettish princess, Rosanne, committed to love whoever inherits the throne. The Ensemble Matheus, under its youthful director Jean-Christophe Spinosi, brings high-energy brashness to 'this production, with a robust continua, spirited accents, and lots of textural variety. Vivaldi's sacred motets are unabashed showpieces for the soloists in the mass to display their virtuosity. Although these motets were inserted into the church service, they served no liturgical function. Each features two operatic arias separated by recitative, ending with a florid Alleluia. Even the Latin texts invite Vivaldi-style tone painting, with hissing serpents and rustic pipes. While mezzo Laura Polverelli is not as dramatic as Bartoli or Scholl, she is very expressive, with lovely runs smoothed out by soft landings. Soprano Anke Herrmann displays a welcome lightness and clarity, with particularly nuanced, exquisite ornaments. The Accademia Montis Regalis under Alessandro de Marchi is agile and refined, somewhat less theatrical in its use of rubato-and vivid contrasts in texture and tempo than Spinosi 's group. Both recordings are part of Opus 111 's project to record the important Vivaldi holdings in the National Library in Turin. Apart from the disturbing and irrelevant cover art - featuring, for some unfathomable reason, close-ups of female models with vacuous. facial expressions, decidedly odd hairdos and, in the case of La verita in cimento, a tattooed hand - they are outstandingly presented in every way. Pamela Marg/es Purcell: Dido and Aeneas Susan Graham, Ian Bostridge Camilla Tilling European Voices, Le Concert d' Astree Emmanuelle. Hai'~, harpsichord and direction Virgin Veritas 7243 5 45605 2 1

Lasting less than an hour, Dido and Aeneas goes by very quickly. There isn't much material to allot each character. But the outstanding cast on this stylish period-instrument recording manages to develop fully realized characterizations, with imaginative support provided by French conductor Emmanuelle Hai'm. From the urging of Paul Agnew's jaunty sailor to "take a boozy short leave of your nymphs on the shore", to the gloating of Cecile de Boever's Second Witch, "Our plot has took, the Queen's forsook", the felicities of Nahum Tate's witty libretto and Purcell's glorious score are well displayed. Mezzo Susan Graham is a radiant, sublimely moving Dido. The ultrasensitive, sweet-toned tenor Ian Bostridge manages to make his Aeneas more of a conflicted lover than a rotten bouncier. Camilla Tilling is an affecting Belinda, Felicity Palmer a delectable sorceress, and David Daniels, in a brilliant piece of casting, a thrillingly otherworldly Spirit. Hai'm, leading from the harpsichord with high-spirited•e!egance, offers up spectacular effects. Her expressive continuo section, richly endowed with ;irchlute, theorbo, organ, and strumming baroque gui· tar, creates exciting momentum, especially in the extended instrumental interludes. The spirited chorus and nimble orchestra gleefully contribute to the drama. Tempos are brisk but flexible, reflecting the continually shifting moods. This disc is easily a match for the best of the many interesting recordings of this work, most notably by William Christie, Jean Lamon, and Herve Niquet. Pamela Margles Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen Birgit Nilsson, Wolfgang Windgassen, Kirsten Flagstad, Hans Hotter, Dietrich Fischer­ Dieskau, George London, Christa Ludwig and others Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Georg Solti Decca 455 555-2 (stereo, 1958-65; second remas~ tering, 1997; 14 CD's) Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen Lauritz Melchior, Helen Traubel, Kirsten Flagstad, Astrid Varnay, Frederich Schorr and others Metropolitan ·opera, Artur Bodanzky and Eric Leinsdorf, con- APRIL 1 - M AY 7 2004 doctors. Naxos Historic 8.501106 (mono, live broadcast recordings, 1936-41, 11 CD's) Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen Hans Hotter, Wolfgang Windgassen, Gre Brouwenstijn Astrid Varnay, Bayreuth Festival; Hans Knappertsbusch Music and Arts Programs of America CD-4009 ( www (mono hi-fl, live recording 1956, 13 CD's) "Hand-crafted prototype for a luxury Mercedes" is an apt analogy for Solti 's pioneering Ring cycle. This first complete recording of Wagner's tetrology was also a full-pedal test drive of new stereo LP technology. Solti had a budget to assemble the very best Wagnerian vocal and musical talents, plus engineering talent to match. Minus producer John Culshaw 's hi-tech savvy, we wouldn't have such magnificence. And magnificent it is. Solti and Culshaw pioneered stereo techniques that communicated subtle stage movements with purely auditory information. No stone was left unturned in terms of assembling Wagner's unusual instrumentation: if 14 musical anvils or three "steer horns" were needed, they were manufactured. Solti understood that studio work imposes techniques different from live performances. It took 20 days to record Gotterdammerung. Each hard day's work produced 15 minutes on tape. This glorious artifact's intensity is not sustainable during four hours of live performance. Decca's first transfer of this glory to CD was problematic: make sure you buy the successful 1997 version. The interwar Met Ring cycle's fascination can be summed up in one word: Melchior. Traube!, Flagstad and Varnay are not to be sneered at, but it's the great heldentenor who demonstrates that opera's golden age was not mythical. Ward Marston exhibits his usual wizardry in massaging surprisingly acceptable sound from old mono sources. Not even Marston can fully rescue flawed source material in the 1936 Gotterdammerung. Melchior's voice and Naxos' bargain prices can. The 1956 Knappertsbusch Ring is a real find. Knappertsbusch performances were hit or miss affairs. Here it's hit after hit. As a young man, Knappertsbusch assisted Hans Richter, the conductor who premiered Der Ring at Bayreuth in 1876. There's considerable overlap between Knappertsbusch's and Solti's casts. The sound transfer from hi-fi mono sources on this bargainpriced set is excellent. If you don't want to shell out big bucks for Solti 's Ring, and want better sound than restored interwar mono, Knappertsbusch 's Ring is a worthy purchase. Phil Ehrensaft WWW, THEWHOLENOTE. COM Tenor Arias Joseph Calleja, Milano Giuseppe Verdi Orchestra and Chorus Riccardo Chailly Decca 475 250-2 Young Maltese tenor ... first commercial CD ... most of the required standards for the venture BUT - and here's the real surprise - this one's got the potential to consign the three --rrTlil Ill Ill Ill Ill Ill Ill Ill tm( tm( tm( tm( tm( NAXOS 11111 11111 11111 1111 1 11 11 NEW DVD OPERA RELEASES DVORAK:RUSALKA Renee Fleming, Eva Urbanova, Opera National de Paris Plo-t,A..,.monc lko,.,,,.Aae" 11'1 . .... ""4,o-r• Mole11•{

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