Featuring the best reviews from our loyal ClassicsOnline members.
(5 January – 18 January)
- Opera Arias (Soprano): Tetrazzini, Luisa - BELLINI, V. / DAVID, F. / DONIZETTI, G. / TOSTI, F.P. / ROSSINI, G. / GRIEG, E. (1904-1914) (Prima Voce : NI7891)
- MACKEY, S.: Lonely Motel: Music from Slide (Eckert, Mackey, eighth blackbird) (Cedille: CDR90000-128)
- RACHMANINOV, S.: Etudes-tableaux, Op. 39 / 6 Songs, Op. 38 / Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 (Brilova, Melnikov) (Harmonia Mundi: HMC901978)
La Regina was a nickname given to Leyla Gencer for her interpretation of Donizetti's queens, but before Gencer was even born, Luisa Tetrazzini was the Queen of Coloratura.
It is amazing how clear these records sound, given the oldest was cut over 100 years ago. Tetrazzini's rich, golden tone pours out without any difficulty. Her ease and virtuosity in the high register is incredible. The strength and purity of the top is magnificent. There are no thin high notes here!
The highlight, for me, is Sempre Libera from La Traviata. Why? After all, there are better displays of bravura facility elsewhere. But Tullio Serafin taught his Violettas that Sempre Libera, which is in my opinion the most vital part of La Traviata, must be bubbling and uncontrollable like champagne: the singing must be effervescent.
Tetrazzini provides this effervescence while simultaneously displaying natural legato and flawless execution of the coloratura.
Certainly, Tetrazzini's middle and low registers were not perfect. The middle is white and open, which does not please Anglo-American listeners. However, just as it isn't right to take a baritone singing Iago to task for avoiding the lines of A naturals, it isn't relevant to bully Tetrazzini for a middle that does not meet the expectations of audiences 100 years later!
If nothing else, and if the buyer has no sentimental attachment to Tetrazzini, then it is still worthy buying because it gives a window into a vanished world. It's a bit difficult to explain. Listen to some samples and you'll see what I mean: the miracle of these recordings from so long ago becomes clear. People with lots of Tamagno records will understand perfectly.
A rightful nomination for the Grammy Awards
Although I was already familiar with the music of Steven Mackey and with the performances of the ensemble ‘Eight Blackbird’, I was still pleasantly surprised by Cédille Records new album with the music of Mackey’s recent music theatre-piece “Slide”.
What directly attracts the attention when listening to the homonymous first track of this recording is the incredible energy and sheer musical joy with which Eight Blackbird performs this indefinable music.
This ensemble not only master their instruments to near-perfection, these excellent musicians reveal themselves in addition on this album as quite good singers and actors too, a multifaceted quality that an avant-garde composer such as the late Maurizio Kagel, known for his exhilarating music theatre works, probably would have delighted.
Besides there’s also the remarkable performance of Rinde Eckert, who also wrote the libretto for this work. Being European, I’d never heard of Eckert before and I don’t know in how far he had a classical musical training, but I have to admit that he does a wonderful job as the psychologist ‘Renard’ (maybe a little wink to Stravinsky’s ‘Fox’?), not only as an actor, but as a singer too, in a work that musically and technically speaking isn’t that obvious (to use quite an understatement).
The composition of Mackey itself is one of a musical omnivore. Mackey is a composer who want to forge bridges-not only between different musical genres, like classical, jazz, and rock music-but also within the different styles of contemporary classical music. A trained ear will certainly recognize elements of Stravinsky, Bartok, Reich, Ligeti etc. Therefore, I suppose this music will probably be lost on music purists, but amateurs of post-modern and crossover music on the contrary will have a great time listening to this album and figuring out all the musical references (such as the hilarious tribute to John Dowland).
Personally, I found this a very refreshing, well-recorded and recommendable CD, which offers also a good introduction to the music of Steven Mackey. In conclusion I also want to refer to another CD available on ClassicsOnline. It’s called “Strange Imaginary Animals”, and is another recording with this delicious ensemble ‘Eight Blackbird’. This album contains not only music of Mackey but also other adventurous pieces by Jennifer Higdon and David M. Gordon.
The ultimate in Rachmaninov
This recording is the finest recording to date of this body of music, in both performance and recording. Where most recordings note-worthy, there is great difference in how Melnikov uses the pedal in this work. What is muddy or sounds like a roar of sound in other recordings takes on a clarity in sound and intensity herein. I know that Melnikov worked for many hours with his engineers over how to record this project but the ability to perform this work with such technical precision, the uncanny control of color through pedal and the musical reach of Melnikov leaves me speechless.
The songs are strange to my ears because, here, the piano part upstages the voice and this is more because of how the composer wrote.
If you like Rachmaninov, you must listen to this recording.
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