DELIUS, F.: Mass of Life (A) / Prelude and Idyll (J. Watson, Wyn-Rogers, A. Kennedy, Opie, Bach Choir, Bournemouth Symphony, D. Hill)
Alan Opie, who has the lion’s share of the solo music in the work, is almost Wotan-like in his performances. From his first Nietzschean dance he is majestic and brings out of the score that vibrant, heady, Teutonic contemporaneity with which Delius had clearly become enthralled at this point in his career. Opie’s singing of what is effectively the role of Zarathustra has immense authority and his impressive range (up to high G) is ideal for Delius’s onerous vocal demands.
Andrew Kennedy, Catherine Wyn-Rogers and Janice Watson also offer fine lyrical interpretations of their solo parts and the choral accompaniments are allowed to intermingle subtly as an extension of the orchestra. The BSO are on fine form too, and special mention needs to be made of the haunting horn-playing in the introduction to Part 2 (‘On the Mountains’), a sound which sums up so much of Delius’s nature music.
This is a must for any Delius Liebhaber and, with the added bonus of the late Prelude and Idyll, a marvellous starting point for anyone new to Delius’s unique but compelling art.
© 2012 Gramophone
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Orchestral Music - BACH, J.S. / HANDEL, G.F. / MONTEVERDI, C. / PURCELL, H. / RAMEAU, P. / TELEMANN, G.P. / VIVALDI, A. (The Galileo Project) (Lamon)
Tafelmusik’s The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres was conceived as a celebration of the work of Galileo for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 and brings together science and art to show the links between astronomy, music and the mathematical harmonies of the universe.
The company creates an extraordinary production which uses a combination of music, astronomy, theatre, photography, video, mythology, literature and history to build a picture of the growth of music and astronomy in the 17th and 18th centuries.
While this account is entertaining and cleverly presented it is the orchestra which shines. Composed of seventeen players they are all brilliant soloists in their own right. Together they are a stellar act.
They gave the early and baroque music a new sense of liveliness and meaning with their unusual playing. Much of the time the players were in groups of two or three, engaged in musical conversations which brought out the musical themes and structures.
They looked more like a cabaret group of fiddlers jamming together, smiling at the musical jokes, competing with each other for bravura performances or the classiest technique.
The two cellists in the centre of the stage appeared to have their own, often private conversation with the cerebral, wry Allen Whear dueling with the more emotional, watchful Christine Mahler.
Each of the players displayed an individual temperament and playing style which gave the concert a real sense of dynamism and engagement.
© 2012 The National Business Review
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BERLIOZ, H.: Herminie / Les nuits d'ete / RAVEL, M.: Sheherazade (Gens, Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire, Axelrod)
Véronique Gens Dazzles in Berlioz and Ravel
This is an absolutely wonderful program. Of course Les Nuits d’été and Shéhérazade are old discmates, most famously on an outstanding disc featuring the late, great Régine Crespin. A dramatic soprano, Crespin’s voice was quite a bit larger than the comparative lightness and purity of Gens, but these songs aren’t Wagner, and each soloist does the music full justice in her own way. Especially in Les Nuits d’été, which isn’t really a song cycle, Gens and conductor John Axelrod team up to produce a performance that actually makes you forget that the work consists of two quick numbers enclosing four long, droopy ones. “Absence” and “Au Cimetière” seldom have sounded more flowing and purposeful.
Gens’ deft handling of the poetry also pays major dividends in the long first song of Shéhérazade, a travelogue that all too easily degenerates into a sort of impressionistic, French version of “I’ve Got A Little List”. Not here, with Gens conveying an unexaggerated feeling of wonderment, ably seconded by Axelrod’s colorful accompaniments. The brief concluding songs, “La flûte enchanté” and “L’indifférent”, are sexy but not smarmy, beautifully capturing Ravel’s delicately etched vocal lines. I can’t help but think, despite wonderful performances by non-French singers (Ely Ameling especially), how much it helps to have a native speaker take the part.
However, what makes this disc particularly desirable is the presence of Herminie, an early cantata by Berlioz that’s almost always passed over in favor of the more popular La mort de Cléopâtre. Herminie is not only a very enjoyable work in its own right, but it begins with a tune that’s nothing less than the “idée fixe” that later found a home in the Symphonie fantastique. The tune returns in the middle section of the aria “Arrête! Arrête! Cher Tancrède”, where it becomes an accompaniment to the vocal line (sound sample). As with everything on this program, the work is compellingly sung by Gens and conducted with conviction. The engineering is also excellent, with Gens’ voice captured with truly striking naturalism. Highest recommendation.
By David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
MARTIN, F.: Cello Concerto / HONEGGER, A.: Cello Concerto / SCHOECK, O.: Cello Concerto (Christian Poltera Plays Martin, Honegger, Schoeck) (Poltera)
Swiss cellist Poltéra on home turf in three concertos
Anyone seeking an entry point into Arthur Honegger’s unique sound world could hardly do better than the seductive opening of the 1929 Cello Concerto, a gorgeous melodic line, its wistful, even smoky accompaniment harmonised with Gershwin in mind (or so it seems). OK, a couple of minutes in and the mood turns strident, but contrasts abound throughout the Concerto’s modest 15-minute time-span and Christian Poltéra connects convincingly with the overall mood of the piece.
Frank Martin’s Concerto of 1966 is very different, Vaughan Williams having been quoted as a possible influence on the first movement, though my ears detect—even within the first minute—a very prominent (and unexpected) echo of Shostakovich’s Eleventh Symphony. Martin’s own voice is at its most characteristic in the relatively austere second movement whereas echoes of jazz (and Bartók) dominate the finale.
Othmar Schoeck’s Concerto, the longest work programmed and a product of the late 1940s, was premiered by Pierre Fournier and in many respects inhabits a more securely lateRomantic musical world than its two disc companions. The lyrical interweaving of soloist and orchestra is beautifully realised on this memorable recording (just sample the Elgarian wistfulness of the first movement’s second subject at around 3’08”), and although Schoeck’s teacher Max Reger springs readily to mind in some of the Concerto’s faster music, I feel sure that anyone hearing this music for the first time and not recognising it will be encouraged to know precisely what it is they’re hearing. The sound quality (2006–07) is first-rate, rich in texture but never overbearing, and although Poltéra enjoys a fairly prominent place on the sound stage, his contributions never hog the limelight unduly. First-rate in every way.
© 2012 Gramophone