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Briefly Noted: Slatkin's Copland ballet cycle

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A. Copland, Complete Ballet Scores, Vol. 3, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, L. Slatkin

(released on March 8, 2019)
Naxos 8.559862 | 62'49-"
Aaron Copland composed music for six ballets, although only three have been widely performed and recorded. Conductor Leonard Slatkin has taken a special interest in this side of Copland's oeuvre. After leaving the National Symphony Orchestra, where his tenure had mixed results, Slatkin went on to an institution-rejuvenating stint with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Among several admirable projects was a complete survey of the Copland ballet scores, all in their comprehensive versions, a series of performances captured on disc for the Naxos label. This third and final installment pairs the well-known Billy the Kid, from 1938, with the first ballet Copland composed, the curious, pleasing Grohg.

The composer's three most popular ballets -- Rodeo, Appalachian Spring, and Billy the Kid -- all share the signature Copland sound, somewhat saccharine Americana influenced by folk music and redolent of a mythologizing view of this country's history. The earlier Grohg, on the other hand, is something altogether different. Copland began it in 1922, at the suggestion of Nadia Boulanger, with whom he was studying in France for much of that decade. A chance encounter with Friedrich Murnau's horror film Nosferatu that year led Copland and his friend, the writer Harold Clurman, to create a scenario about a necromancer for the ballet. A monstrous creature, Grohg falls in love with people who have just died -- an adolescent, an opium addict, a prostitute. He revives their corpses with his magic, only to be rejected by them. The mind boggles at what a choreographer like Alexei Ratmansky could do with this ballet.

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Vol. 1

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Vol. 2
As Copland wrote of the piece's composition, "This ballet became the most ambitious undertaking of my Paris years: I had no choreographer, commission or contact with a major ballet company." It was essentially a massive graduate thesis project, and as such was left unpublished. The music shows Copland soaking up the atmosphere of 1920s Paris, a city that had just heard the premieres of Stravinsky's ground-breaking ballets and Debussy's Jeux. "There was a taste for the bizarre at the time," Copland continued, "and if Grohg sounds morbid and excessive, the music was meant to be fantastic rather than ghastly. Also, the need for gruesome effects gave me an excuse for ‘modern’ rhythms and dissonances. Until Grohg, I had written only short piano pieces using jazz-derived rhythms."

Slatkin's is not the first recording of Grohg, an honor that goes to the Cleveland Orchestra under the late Oliver Knussen. (Knussen also conducted the first recording of another rare Copland ballet, Hear Ye! Hear Ye!, with the London Sinfonietta, offered on the same disc.) Slatkin and the DSO give a technicolor rendition of this unusual score, as well as an elegiac performance of the more familiar Billy the Kid. All three discs are both an affordable way for a collector to acquire all of Copland's ballet scores, as well as a testament to the fine partnership of Slatkin and the DSO, an orchestra that has revived along with its city, now that Slatkin has stepped back to take the position of Music Director Laureate.

On ClassicsToday: Mahler Third with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra & Jonathan Nott

The Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra’s Mahler Cure

Musikverein, Vienna; Saturday, March 16, 2019—There is either a glut of Mahler on the concert circuit or you can’t ever get enough Mahler. There is no middle ground. Mahler is appealing stuff on many levels, not the least that you can easily impress with the music at rather less rehearsal expense than you could with, say, Haydn. Also: the musicians are already there, so they might as well be used—lest you get a letter from a subsidy-conscious politician about efficiency concerns (as happened to the Vienna Symphony not long ago). Granted, not all of this applies to the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra’s performance of Mahler’s Third at the Musikverein, one of three Mahler symphonies in six performances over the course of just nine days at that venerable house alone... Continued on ClassicsToday


Dip Your Ears No. 230 (Leo Ornstein's Heterogeneous Box of Chocolates)

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Leo Ornstein, Piano Music vol.2
Arsentiy Kharitonov
Toccata Classics

A Russian, born in the Ukraine, the prodigious composer-pianist Leo Ornstein (~1893-2002) immigrated with his family to the US where he arrived, in New York, in 1906. His music is a heterogeneous mix that can remind of anything between Antheil, Scriabin, Messiaen, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, even Kapustin: An eclectic array of styles of which this disc of his piano music, however, only shows Ornstein at his most well-behaved. A Morning in the Woods (1971, “A/B its lacey melodic threads and gentle chord voicings against Chick Corea’s rhapsodic solo improvisations.” - Jed Distler), his collected Waltzes (covering an hour's worth of music composed between 1958 and 1980), and the early Suite Russe (1914) make for an easy introduction to the composer.

One of his Waltzes (“Allegro con moto ed bravura”) breaks out of brilliant bar-pianism pleasantry and hints at waters running deep and fast. His international idiom, which may strike an American, French, and Russian inflection on occasion, but never ostentatiously so, may lull one into supposing that this is inauspicious stuff. Not so: The Pianist Arsentiy Kharitonov turns it into great music—or at least something pretty close to it. It will make you want to explore the first volume of this series and hope for a third.


On ClassicsToday: Beethoven Cycle No.176 from WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne

Mightily Superfluous Excellence: Saraste and Beethoven Cycle No. 176

by Jens F. Laurson
Raise your hand if you really, truly need another, a new set of the nine Beethoven symphonies—the 176th* such cycle? No one? I thought so. Well, maybe you are a fan of Jukka-Pekka Saraste or the West German Radio Symphony Orchestra and you were at... Continue Reading


Briefly Noted: Rousset Surveys the Nations

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F. Couperin, Les Nations, Les Talens Lyriques, C. Rousset

(released on January 25, 2019)
Aparté AP197D | 109'01"
While Washington's concert presenters gave us a lethal overdose of Leonard Bernstein's music last year, the anniversary of a far more prolific and talented composer went largely unnoticed. Only Christophe Rousset, on an extraordinary visit to the Library of Congress last fall, offered a tribute to François Couperin, a composer distinguished from other members of his family by the epithet "The Great." With his ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, Rousset has also released a complete recording of the composer's fourth collection of chamber music for instruments, published as Les Nations in 1726, a few years before the composer's death.

Each suite in Les Nations is named for one of "the four political powers – French, Spanish, Imperial (the Holy Roman Empire), and the Savoy dynasty of Piedmont – that for many years influenced Couperin’s world," as esteemed French musicologist Catherine Cessac puts it in her savant booklet essay. The music, however, is largely reworked from earlier sources, as Couperin himself explained in the preface to the collection, making it more a survey of his own trajectory as a composer. The four suites all open with a long "sonade," a trio sonata in which Couperin gives homage to the Italian music of Corelli and Lully, "both of whose compositions I shall love as long as I live." An array of dazzling, shorter dance pieces in the French style fills out the rest of each suite, merging the true "nations" of the collection, France and Italy.

Rousset achieves a diverting range of sounds from his small ensemble -- two violins, two traverso flutes, two oboes, bassoon, viola da gamba, theorbo, and himself at the harpsichord -- covering the four parts (two treble lines, sustained bass instrument, and continuo). Varied instrumentation movement to movement yields any number of registrations from intimate to full. While all the playing is at the highest level, the pastel breathiness of the flutes is especially striking, as in the slender "Gavote" of the second suite, L'Espagnole, a compact, quiet minute of concentrated charm. Even the locale of the recording is apt: the Galerie dorée of the Hôtel de la Vrillière, once the residence of the Comte de Toulouse, second legitimated son of Louis XIV and his mistress, Madame de Montespan, and harpsichord student of François Couperin. Now it is the home of the Banque de France, which has opened the restored space to musicians and occasional public visits.


In the US Catholic Herald: When a Protestant powerhouse turned to Catholic music

When a Protestant powerhouse turned to Catholic music

The Frauenkirche stands beside the Elbe in Dresden, the capital of Saxony (Getty)
    Dresden, 1650. The Thirty Years’ War, officially over for only two years, hadn’t just decimated the population of Saxony – which, technically, would suggest a reduction by 10 per cent. Between disease, famine and murder, it had wiped out a gruesomely unimaginable two thirds.
    Death was more present than life – a fact that did not spare the great court ensembles of the Saxon Elector, Johann Georg I and that of his eldest (surviving) son, the future Johann Georg II... continue reading
    The CD that goes with this article:


    Dip Your Ears, No. 229 (OK Stravinsky in the Cards for Gergiev)

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    I.Stravinsky, Petrushka (1911 Version), Jeu de Cartes
    Valery Gergiev, Mariinsky Orchestra

    Valery Gergiev is as streaky a conductor as they come. Sensational, awful, and perfectly fine if eventless recordings follow in unpredictable order and ratio. This release of Petrushka (in the 1911 Version) and Jeu de Cartes feels like it was recorded on the go, rather than have love and labor poured into it. That approach, not foreign to Gergiev, can yield results that are exciting (usually with orchestras that haven’t already drunk too deeply from the Gergiev cup), but here especially Petrushka remains just that: A rather fine run-through that sounds good enough only until one encounters knock-out recordings conducted by, say, Boulez (either), Chailly, Dohnanyi, the composer himself, or, if it must be the 1911 version, Andrew Litton. If you are looking for Jeu de Cartes, there’s nothing to regret opting for this version, but you could also just go back to Chailly and be every bit as well served.


    Briefly Noted: Sudbin's Beethoven (CD of the Month)

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    L. van Beethoven, Sonatas, op. 110-111 / Bagatelles, Y. Sudbin

    (released on March 1, 2019)
    Bis BIS-2208 | 62'53"
    Yevgeny Sudbin has long been a favorite here at Ionarts, for his delightful recital discs devoted to single composers, especially Domenico Scarlatti, Scriabin, and Haydn. As far as Beethoven, the Russian-born pianist has only recorded the piano concertos so far, until this disc pairing the last two Beethoven sonatas with the six Bagatelles of op. 126. These are all pieces composed in the last half-decade of Beethoven's life, and they are all rather compact, expressive, and highly unorthodox. This sits quite nicely in the area of strength for Yevgeny Sudbin, who excels in picking out the most exquisite details through the means of an unflinching technical assault on a score.

    The movements of the rather short op. 110 sonata are, in some ways, like four bagatelles (with the Adagio and Allegro portions woven together in the third movement), and Sudbin plays the piece to the hilt, bringing out the quirky sides of each one. The second movement especially, with its snatches of Unsa Kätz häd Katzln ghabt ("Our cat has had kittens") and Ich bin lüderlich, du bist lüderlich ("I'm a slob, you're a slob"), is fast and witty. The concluding fugue is a tour de force of clarity in the voicing of each appearance of the subject, on one hand an intellectual exercise and on the other, moments of levity that lighten the weight of the tragic Adagio.

    Moods pass quickly across the face of the op. 111 sonata, given maximum contrast by Sudbin in this powerhouse performance. The Allegro outbursts are intense, hammered but with differentiation of voices, and the dreamy sections distant and meditative. The "Arietta" is poetic and hushed, its individualized variations again recalling a kinship with the form of the bagatelle. Sudbin avoids turning the dotted-rhythm variation into an anachronistic "boogie-woogie" (pace Jeremy Denk), as Beethoven never heard swing rhythm after all. The late Bagatelles of op. 126, far from being throw-away trifles, are late-period miniatures, experimental kernels heard in more expanded form in larger pieces of the same period, including parts of the sonatas included on this disc. Sudbin mines them for every quirk and bizarre turn of phrase.


    Dip Your Ears, No. 228 (Jean Muller's Starts Fine New Mozart Sonata Cycle)

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    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sonatas K332, K281, K331, K570
    Jean Muller (piano)
    Hänssler Classic

    This is the opening shot of a new cycle of Mozart sonatas—which, going by the Mozart Piano Sonata Cycle survey on ionarts and counting a few incomplete ones—should be the 84th such cycle! Needless to say, with such competition, both historic and new, it’s hard to leave a mark. While these four very soberly, beautifully played sonatas—never precious or dainty; never romanticized—make a very good impression (along the lines of Alicia de Larrocha, which should be high praise, indeed), they don’t make a splash like the recordings of William Youn’s on Oehms did. What remains is a disc of some of Mozart’s most popular works (including the “Alla Turca” sonata) that display Jean Muller as the very fine but not quite titillating pianist he probably is.


    On ClassicsToday: The Finest Modern Recording of the Mieczysław Weinberg Piano Quintet?

    The Stamic Quartet’s Great Weinberg & Bloch Combo

    by Jens F. Laurson
    For it being one of the absolutely great chamber works of the 20th century, there aren’t actually that many good recordings of the Mieczysław Weinberg Piano Quintet. I have yet to listen to the Attacca Quartet’s and the Silesian String Quartet’s most recent releases, but... Continue Reading


    On ClassicsToday: Technical Finesse From The Sitkovetsky Trio in Mendelssohn

    Superbly Played Mendelssohn From The Sitkovetsky Trio, But Something’s Missing

    by Jens F. Laurson
    The Mendelssohn Piano Trios live an existence in fame-limbo: not neglected but not quite part of the hard core of piano trios that the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Dvořák, and Schumann occupy. Within Mendelssohn’s œvre they don’t have the beaming geniality of the... Continue Reading


    Briefly Noted: Zimmermann's Violin Concerto

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    B. A. Zimmermann, Violin Concerto / Photoptosis / Die Soldaten Vocal Symphony, L. Josefowicz, A. Komsi, J. Packalen, V. Rusanen, H. Summers, P. Tantsits, J. Uusitalo, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, H. Lintu

    (released on February 8, 2019)
    Ondine ODE1325-2 | 73'45"
    Bernd Alois Zimmermann's music can be relentless, which does not necessarily make for pleasant listening. Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu's new disc of some of the composer's orchestral works, with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, brings out the technicolor weirdness of Zimmermann's style, cast in 12-tone rows, generally dissonant. A booklet essay by musicologist Mark Berry, who has written about Zimmermmann for the New York Times, provides savant historical background.

    Leila Josefowicz is incendiary on the solo part of the Violin Concerto. Although the work has been recorded before, she plays it with an arresting immediacy and restless edge, not lingering over the middle movement, for example, as long as Thomas Zehetmair did over a decade earlier in his recording. The second movement is positively surreal, especially the slightly creepy passage for violin solo over celesta, and Zimmermann's menacing quotation of the Gregorian sequence Dies Irae, heavily clustered with dissonance.

    It is paired here with the tone poem Photoptosis, a late work for large orchestra before the composer's suicide in 1970, after years of health problems and depression. Inspired by the vibrant blue paintings of Yves Klein, it is a hallucinogenic exploration of clashing dyads, including a sunburst of sound that introduces several quotations from other composers. The first is the "chaos chord" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the simultaneous sounding of all twelve notes of the chromatic scale, a nod to Zimmermann's unconventional use of the 12-tone technique here and throughout his oeuvre.

    Zimmermann reworked his violent opera Die Soldaten as a compact vocal symphony, about 40 minutes in length. This disc offers a rare recording of this symphony, but it is essentially just excerpts that represent the dramatic arc of only the first two acts, using just six characters spread throughout the human vocal range. Therefore it climaxes, so to speak, with the ensemble scene combining the wordless love scene of Marie and Desportes, to one side, with the conversation of Stolzius and the old ladies on the other. Soprano Anu Komsi displays considerable vocal strength as Marie Wesener as does bass Juha Uusitalo as her father.


    In the US Catholic Herald: Sonatas to help you pray the rosary

    Sonatas to help you pray the rosary

    Whether you listen to this as absolute music or as the background to deliberate contemplation, you have a
    choice of some excellent recordings
    Catholics who love the rosary may be unaware of an extraordinary aid to their prayer: the Rosary Sonatas, by the Bohemian composer and violinist Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber.
    Biber was employed in the Austrian and Moravian towns of Graz and Kroměříž before entering his service in Salzburg, where he would compose the grand and glorious Missa Salisburgensis on the occasion of the 1,100th anniversary of the Salzburgian archbishopric in 1682. The great 18th-century musicologist Charles Burney wrote that “of all the violin players of the last century Biber seems to have been the best, and his solos are the most difficult and fanciful of any music I have seen of the same period”. [continue reading]


    In the US Catholic Herald: Grand motets worthy of a king

    Grand motets worthy of a king

    Louis XIV Gate at Versailles (Max Pixel)
    Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) succeeded Jean-Baptiste Lully at the court of Louis XIV and was in charge of dinner music, where he provided oodles of deliciously entertaining baroque muzak. Good as that music is, if you want to turn it up a notch, go seek out de Lalande’s Grand Motets, where you will notice that greater things come of praising the Lord than trying to accompany roast pheasant with candied bacon-apples on a purée-of-gooseberry sauce velouté. [continue reading]


    Dip Your Ears, No. 227 (Te Deum for the Successful Sacking of Freiburg)

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    Henry Madin, Te Deum pour le Victoires de Louis XV; Diligam Te, Domine
    D.Cuiller, Stradivaria, Les Cris de Paris

    The liner notes start: “Henry Madin is and will remain famous for having [been...] sous-maître de la musique de la Chapelle du Roy.” Hold it right there. Madin is not famous in the least, he’s utterly unknown. However, if modern fame is in the cards for him, this recording will prove the catalyst! What a terrific discovery this French near-contemporary of Bach’s (1698-1748) proves to be. The Vice-Master of Music at Versailles (following Delalande in that position) served Louis XV and established himself as an expert writer of Grand Motets, the lavish, large chorus-employing form that Lully established and Rameau, J.J.De Mondonville et al. perfected. The massive 45+ minute Te Deum is an affirmative, glorious example of French baroque. With its timpani-whacking, trumpet-blowing glamour it’s reminiscent, briefly, of truly famous Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum.

    Saudi Arabia to Sponsor Teatro Della Scala and Sit on Board


    On ClassicsToday: Elijah @ Theater an der Wien with Calixto Bieito & Christian Gerhaher

    Tearing Through Wet Cardboard: Calixto Bieito & Christian Gerhaher Take On Elijah In Vienna

    March 5, 2019 by Jens F. Laurson
    Vienna, February 20, 2019—For opera that’s lightly coated by the dust of centuries, Vienna’s State Opera House is just the thing: A marvel of a musical museum with mainstay works in workmanlike productions and with – all too often – surprisingly shoddy musical contributions. Anyone looking...  Continue Reading

    Pictures from the production below:


    Ionarts-at-Large: The Hagen Quartett in Shostakovich, Dvořák and Schubert

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    DSCH, String Quartets 4, 11, 14
    Hagen Quartet

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    A.Dvorak, Cypresses, "American Quartet
    + Kodaly, String Quartet No.2
    Hagen Quartet

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    Schubert, Trout Quintet, Death & the Maiden Quartet
    Hagen Quartet + James Levine & Alois Posch

    Hagen Quartett Reviews on ionarts:

    Notes from the 2013 Schubertiade ( 7 ) • Hagen Quartett II

    Notes from the 2012 Salzburg Festival ( 4 )

    Dip Your Ears, Addendum 48b (X-Ray Beethoven) [2005]

    The Hagen Quartet increasingly seems like a holdover from a bygone time where classical superstars were fewer but bigger, about four record companies ruled the classical high seas, recording contracts were naturally exclusive, and new releases a real event. Itzhak Perlman, Misha Maisky, the Emerson Quartet, Martha Argerich – to mention three still-active acts, are representatives of this age of mythic musical dinosaurs… and the Hagen Quartet belongs, too. They once set the standard for hyper-precise perfection; a sort-of Pierre Boulez of String Quartets.

    There have been several crops of string quartets who have since equaled these technical standards to the point where they alone are no longer all that noteworthy. The Hagen Quartet’s UPC of über-perfection that not even the similarly pioneering Alban Berg and Emerson Quartet could rival is therefore no more – also because the quartet’s ability has declined not only in relative but also absolute terms. No one is cheating age, and the first violinist of the ensemble, Lukas Hagen, least of them – having been the quartet’s weak point in the last half decade or so.

    That should be put to the test in their recital on Saturday, March 2nd, at the Mozart Hall of Vienna’s Konzerthaus, seeing that Shostakovich’s Fourth String Quartet was first on the bill. The sublime hall – one of the best for chamber music (with a capacity of 700, fine acoustics and bright blue and beautiful interior) – was filled to the brim, with extra chairs put on stage to accommodate the demand: The result of the Hagen Quartet have built themselves a following with regular appearances and their own cycle of concerts over the course of well more than a decade.

    The Shostakovich started out with Lukas Hagen’s fittingly dark, matt, husky tone and enormous pressure he put on the notes in the introductory quartet. He did just fine for a movement and more before being notably squeezed to the edge of his increasingly small comfort zone in the Andantino. Clemens Hagen, still an anchor for the foursome (a brief flat moment in the Schubert aside), shone with moments of his singularly light-yet-resonant tone. For three movements the interpretation was a bit like excellent painting by numbers, more beautiful than intense, but the accumulating energy of the finale – if not boisterous at least insistent – amounted to something.

    What the subsequent four movements of Dvořák’s Cypresses Quartet and Schubert’s Death and the Maiden showed, was that the once trademark transparency and inner glow has given way to a denser, thicker sound, more sonorous and ‘woodier’. That didn’t necessarily suit the Dvořák (largely low-energy pieces that are admittedly difficult to pull off with any great panache), where “I Know that My Love to Thee”, “Death Reigns in Many a Human Breast”, “The Old Letter in My Book” and “Thou Only, Dear One” (plus “Thou Only, Dear One” as an encore after the Schubert) never came across as more than a musical afterthought – a long lull between Shostakovich and Schumann, achingly sincere at best and insufficiently endowed with life and spark.

    Lukas Hagen, with his intonation softening and too often falling back onto a forced and congested sound, gently, subtly squeaked in distress like a Maiden might, faced with death. The middle voices, Rainer Schmidt, violin, and Veronika Hagen, viola, were on the passive side – not breathy nor hollow as one might wish in the Schubert Quaret’s second movement, but with tenderness and gentle detail. The playing was altogether short of a distinct ‘interpretation’ or, to spin it positively, free of excessive fingerprints. The Hagen Quartet aren’t spinning their


    On ClassicsToday: Vilde Frang & Friends Perform the Enescu Octet

    Look Mom, No Conductor! Brilliant Enescu Octet With Vilde Frang & Friends

    by Jens F. Laurson
    The octet of musical acquaintances on this disc, who were all lured to magnificent Schloss Elmau—a luxury spa-hotel right beneath the Bavarian Alps with its own renown music series—is a who’s who of the young generation’s finest musicians. Apart from front-woman Vilde Frang, there’s Gabriel... Continue Reading


    On ClassicsToday: Drums and Dances - Gothenburg Symphony’s Viennese Outing

    Drums and Dances: Gothenburg Symphony’s Viennese Outing

    March 2, 2019 by Jens F. Laurson
    The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (or Göteborgs Symfoniker; @GbgSymfoniker on Twitter and @goteborgssymfoniker on Instagram—our social media service; you’re welcome) has been on a two-week tour of Europe with two and a half programs and its newish, young chief conductor, Santtu-Matias Rouvali. The tour, which started in Stockholm and ends in Salzburg on March 1, is—along with their new Sibelius recording on Alpha—something of a débutante ball, a coming-out party. And where better to dance than in Vienna, their penultimate stop, where the orchestra showed up at the Konzerthaus, which is, in all manner except the fame, Europe’s Carnegie Hall....  Continue Reading

    Briefly Noted: Bewitched by Opera

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    L'opéra des opéras, Le Concert Spirituel, K. Deshayes, K. Watson, R. van Mechelen, H. Niquet

    (released on January 11, 2019)
    Alpha ALPHA442 | 74'10"
    Do not let the silly cover art turn you away from this deserving new release led by French early music specialist Hervé Niquet. It is a selection of arias, choral numbers, and instrumental pieces from a range of operas by Rameau, Charpentier, Marais, Leclair, Campra, Francoeur, Mondonville, and names even more obscure. Not content with merely a random assortment of music, Benoît Dratwicki has chosen and arranged the pieces to create a new short opera, recorded in the Opéra Royal de Versailles in 2017. Dratwicki, the artistic director of the Centre de musique baroque de Versailles, took the idea from the gesture of Louis XIV when, in 1671, the Sun-King requested that Lully create a Ballet des ballets, bringing together excerpts from the 30-some ballets the composer had performed before his court.

    The plot dreamed up for this makeshift opera suits, more or less, the excerpts from lots of different operas. A prince is in love with a princess, sung by tenor Reinoud van Mechelen and soprano Katherine Watson, respectively. The former has a sweet, sighing top well suited to the high-set haute-contre writing in French opera, while the latter sings with an edge sharpened by an active vibrato. The couple's love is thwarted by a wicked sorceress, sung with reedy, malevolent force by mezzo-soprano Karine Deshayes. (Hervé Niquet thought this triangle of characters similar to that found in the television show Bewitched, and thus the album cover was born.) If anything, the instrumental playing exceeds the singing in beauty, not least the magisterial Passacaille from Lully's Armide, which concludes the disc.