JOYFUL MUSIC FROM VENICE

untitled

Baldassare Galuppi, “Il Buranello” (1706 -1784) wrote operas, sacred works, chamber music, and keyboard pieces for the harpsichord and for the then newfangled fortepiano.

A contemporary of Mozart and Gluck he was unfairly overshadowed by composers of the German and Austrian bent, so much so that after his death many of his both published and unpublished works disappeared, some never to be found again.

But those compositions of Galuppi that have managed to survive the passing of time on dusty library shelves or in the hands of care-giving curators have in recent times come to the attention of scholarly performers.

One such artist is the indispensable musical sleuth and powerhouse pianist Peter Seivewright, who has just added a fourth volume of Galuppi works for the keyboard, appending a lovely concerto a cinque for string quartet and keyboard as the album’s closing number, with the undying  support of divine art records

Aside from the sheer delight that Seivewright’s playing brings to the soul of this listener, we are stunned by the rich variety and charm of Galuppi’s music.

No longer stile gallant nor quite severely Classical nor, Heavens knows, Early Romantic in conception or harmonic structure, Galuppi’s sui generis oeuvre spans a transitional moment in music, taking something from here and something else from there, all along not sounding like Gluck or Mozart or anyone else other than Galuppi and that’s a very good thing.

The eight sonatas included in this invaluable CD are delightfully quirky one, two and three movement conceptions, surprisingly as brief as a couple of minutes, or as fully drawn as ten minutes in length. Galuppi preferred the happiness of major keys and out of the 19 tracks only 2 are in no doom, no gloom minor keys.

Overall Italianate in style, unfussy in harmony, uncomplicated in contrapuntal structure, relying instead on a sunny sound culled from the few days of sunshine and the ongoing openhearted disposition of the denizens of the northern city of Venice, along with quintessentially Italian melodies that make them hold our attention from start to finish, Galuppi’s creations for the keyboard are, along with Peter Seivenwright’s labor of love, as endearing as, we hope, enduring.

The CD is handsome in design, brilliantly annotated by Seivewright, who himself helmed the project as producer. With the help of Andrew Graeme as recording engineer, the album delivers an uncomplicated, faithfully-recorded sound devoid of the claustrophobic over-immediacy of many CD’s these days.

Under fifty minutes in running time, Peter Seivewright’s fourth volume will undergo a severe test in my home study by being subjected to repeated replays, so much do I enjoy it.

Steve Sutton, the visionary friend of so many artists and divine art should be saluted for keeping Seivewright busy with past and future projects.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

UNHEARD MOZART

th

Leave it to DIVINE ART to bring much deserved attention to artists the likes of Anthony Goldstone (1944-2017), the late English pianist who during hi life made it both his business and a labor of love to explore the rarely visited and undiscovered outer limits of the pianistic repertory.

Once more I sat down to quietly and with undivided attention listen to Goldstone unearth yet another treasure trove from the dustbin of musical history.

In the DIVINE ART 2007 release CD UNHEARD MOZART (dda25051) Anthony Goldstone set out to fully realize or altogether complete nine Mozart works left unfinished by the Austrian master.

Naysayers will most likely question the necessity or validity of this mission, yet I for one salute it with the conviction that more Mozart is never too much Mozart.

And while on the subject of convictions I state clearly that Goldstone was one of the finest pianists I heard in over a half century of concert-going. His playing in this CD is assured to a fault yet pliant and impassioned, accurate yet never pedantic, elegant but not in the least fussy or mannered.

Just in the Mozart realm I was personally and passionately involved in the staging of Mozart’s incomplete L’Oca del Cairo. We used the faultless Virgilio Mortari edition which made it all but impossible to tell where Mozart ended and Mortari picked up. Same here, so seamless is Goldstone bespoke work

And then there’s Puccini’s Turandot. Must we continue to apologize for the use of the tagged-on Alfano ending or just be content with the truncated Puccini? And so forth.

Kudos to Stephen Sutton and divine art for this little gem, to the learned Julian Rushton for his enlightening program notes and, above all to Anthony Goldstone for his Mozartian gift

Rafael de Acha http://www.Rafael’MusicNotes.com

Jan Jirasek: Music of the Soul

th

Between February and June of 2015 Czech composer Jan Jirásek brought together the combined forces of the Bonifantes Boys Choir and the Czech Soloist Consort in the acoustically resonant Municipal Music Hall in the Czech Republic’s city of Hradec Králové there to record for Navona Records three of his works for choral ensemble: Missa propria, Mondi Paralleli, and Tam, kde sláva neprestává.

Under the title of When the Soul Speaks, the results are impressive.

Rather than adhering to a traditional format of the Catholic Mass, all three of these works embrace a free form both in text and musical structure.

Missa propria (Proper Mass) is made up of Kyrie, Gloria, Miserere, Credo and Agnus Dei and then divided up into three sections. The haunting music is given a lovely rendition by both the Bonifantes Boys Choir and the Czech Soloist Consort under conductor Jan Míšek.

With Mondi Paralleli our composer seeks spiritual commonality between Judaism and Christianity by simultaneously incorporating into his music Hebrew and Latin texts on several occasions. The juxtaposition of texts and choral groupings in counterpoint is nothing short of brilliant.

Tam, kde sláva neprestává (Unending Glory) is made up of three sections: Hospodine, pomiluj (God’s Love), Svatý Václave (Saint Wenceslas), and the martial Ktož jsú boží bojovníci (Jesus Warriors), the latter one using some percussion as accompaniment.

Here, as in the two previous compositions one can hear hints of medieval and early Renaissance Chant, underpinning Cantus Firmus, Conductus structures, and Motet-like choral forms.

At this point I have to sound off my one negative comment about this otherwise beautiful album: Nowhere in sight is there a program note about the music or a single translation of the texts. With great difficulty, since I neither read and write nor speak Czech I managed by dint of searching to come up with a few probably poor translations of the titles. That and no credit given to the sound engineer (s) keeps this otherwise amazing album from giving a flawless impression.

Made piquant by occasional dissonances and nods to monodic writing, Jirasek’s music offers a wondrously eclectic mix of post-Romantic melodic impulses and severe compositional adherence to solid counterpoint. His is the work of a master composer with a deep spiritual current running through his being, and that is one of the many saving graces of this album, along with the gorgeous singing of its boys and men.

Rafael de Acha              http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Icelandic music played by Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir

vernacularcover+(1)Icelandic-American cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir has recorded VERNACULAR (DSL-92229) on the Sono Luminus label. The intriguing album, soon to be available from a number of sources, features music for solo cello by Icelandic composers.

Páll Ragnar Pálsson’s quietly meditative Afterquake opens the album. The composer finds his inspiration in the poetry of fellow Icelander Auður Jónsdóttir’s The Big Quake, echoing its description of a barren yet beautiful landscape in a series of musical gestures ranging from glissandi, trills, and double string playing to sul ponticello bowing.

48 Images of the Moon by Þuríður Jónsdóttir engages the attention through the use of a nighttime field recording by Magnus Bergsson made close to the Önundarfjörður fjord. The combination of the nocturnal sounds of nature juxtaposed to Thorsteinsdóttir’s sometimes serene sometimes energetic responses to the enveloping soundscape is mesmerizing.

Halldór Smárason’s O explores in music the poetic connotations of light and darkness. Its three movements: Ljós, Minni and Slokkna evoke a world enveloped in darkness for a good part of the year. In that world, the lighting up of a fire, even one as small and modest as that of a candle takes on a special significance for those who inhabit it. Its three sections blur their starting and stopping points creating a continuum of sounds- some nervous, some serene, some haunting, all of them fascinating

Solitaire brings the album to a close. Hafliði Hallgrímsson’s composition is divided into five sections; Oration is rhapsodic and impassioned, calling for sweeping bowing, Serenade adopts a playful pizzicato approach, Nocturne is meditative and gentle, yet suddenly interrupted by fierce glissandi, Dirge and Jig, elicit a diversity of unpredictable sounds from the cello of Thorsteinsdóttir.

Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir has lovingly brought to life a project that merits attention from listeners open to new music from all parts of the world, Iceland in this case, from which we hear little and about which we know hardly anything. The cellist has accompanied the beautifully designed and packaged album with candid notes about her musical journey with these compositions, and she has surrounded herself with the Sono Luminus “A team”, headed by the superb Dan Merceruio and Daniel Shores as engineer.

Rafael de Acha http://www.Rafael’sMusicNotes.com

Gernot Wolfgang’s Vienna and the West

51QxcXlE4xL

Listening to Road Signs, an intriguing etude for bassoon and piano by Gernot Wolfgang in the Albany CD Vienna and the West (TROY 1760) I am reminded of how much I enjoyed Wolfgang’s work in the past, and of how unpredictable the young Austrian composer’s music can be. Here’s a lovely compilation of minimalist compositions written between 2002 and 2017.

Playing music conceived for the unjustly ignored lowest member of the woodwinds family and using all the technical bells and whistles at the disposal of a virtuoso, bassoonist Judith Farmer elicits a plangent and haunting sound from her instrument in a composition by Wolfgang that musically evokes the sparse vividness of a Georgia O’Keefe canvas.

Wolfgang next turns on a dime to juxtapose in a bold move his Passage to Vienna to the American West landscape of the prior track. Oh but wait, while the violin of Tereza Stanislav and the cello of Ben Hong court playfully, pianist Joanne Pearce Martin  provides a rhythmic underpinning redolent of Latin America.

As I said, Gernot Wolfgang is unpredictable to a fault. In both these compositions Gernot Wolfgang creates an homage to the Dodecaphonists without slavish adherence to a fixed tone row, and even while avoiding a clearly established tonal center, the Austrian-American composer writes sweeping melodic turns here assigned to the violin here, the bassoon there.

This, in a few words, is music that defies pigeonholing, as it embraces the rigorous conservatory training of its creator while at the same time giving more than a passing nod to the improvisatory feel of jazz.

Route 33 affords a solo turn to Gloria Cheng, a superb pianist utterly comfortable in the unclassifiable music of Wofgang.

The 2014 Windows gives clarinetist Edgar David Lopez a chance to shine in tandem with bassoonist Judith Farmer.

Impressions dates back sixteen years, giving us a glimpse at the right out of the gate accomplishments of its composer in three dreamscapes titled Carnival in Venice, Dream, and Country Road. Lopez’ clarinet, Farmer’s bassoon, and Stanislav’s violin, come together with horn player Amy Jo Rhine, violist Robert Brophy, cellist Charles Tyler, and bassist Steve Dress in a richly executed performance.

The CD’s final track features violinist Maia Jasper White who adds her playing to that of violist Robert Brophy, cellist Charles Tyler, and pianist Robert Thies in From Vienna with Love, a lovely Valentine from Gernot Wolfgang to the capital of his birth-country,.

Unpredictable, surely, but I will choose surprise any day over a musical déjà vu.

Rafael de Acha            http://www.Rafael’sMusicNotes.com

LAMENTO: THE SONGS OF HENRI DUPARC WITH ANDREA MASTRONI and MATTIA OMETTO.

mastroni

LAMENTO SONGS OF HENRI DUPARC WITH ANDREA MASTRONI, BASS AND MATTIA OMETTO, PIANO

De sa dent soudaine et vorace, Comme un chien l’amour m’a mordu... (Suddenly and voraciously Love has bitten me like a dog) sings Bonnières’ text for Henri Duparc’s Le Manoir de Rosamonde, and the fine Italian basso Andrea Mastroni snarls out the phrase in one of many daring choices in his interpretation of all sixteen mélodies of the French master.

In the narrative, ballad-like songs like Au pays où se fait la guerre, La vague et la cloche, and Le galop Mastroni summons an impressive basso cantante voice coupled to a keen dramatic sense.

Not one to overwhelm the delicate gems that make up the bulk of Duparc’s song output – 16 in all – Andrea Mastroni adopts a dark-hued mezza-voce that allows him to spin out long legato phrases without any difficulty.

Mastroni, an impressive singing actor whom I have seen live on stage more than once, is willing to show true vulnerability in confessional utterances like Testament and La vie antérieure, songs in which the absence of artifice, and true intimacy are of the utmost importance. His French diction is unimpeachable and the style right on point.

Mattia Ometto is the superb collaborative pianist and ostensibly a scholar who provides insightful line notes.

Giovanni Caruso is the engineer in this gem of a CD issued by Brilliant Classics in 2015 which by happenchance just reached my hands just days ago. What luck!

Rafael de Acha      http://www.Rafael’sMusicNotes.com

JOHN CHEST, BARITONE and MARCELO AMARAL, PIANO: DIE SCHÖNE MAGELONE

JOHN CHEST

ALPHA 431 / JOHN CHEST, BARITONE and MARCELO AMARAL, PIANO / 2018 / FRANCE / DIE SCHÖNE MAGELONE, OP. 33 – JOHANNES BRAHMS

American baritone John Chest and Brazilian collaborative pianist Marcelo Amaral have both forged important individual careers in Europe, often collaborating on song recitals when their busy schedules permit it.

Luckily they were able to come together in Paris in May of last year to record this CD in the acoustically-friendly recesses of Temple Saint Marcel.

The multi-tasking producer Franck Jaffrès also took care of the mastering and editing of this lovely album, equipped with insightful liner notes and sensible translations of the songs.

All in all this is an elegantly realized project that thanks to the musicianship of both its interpreters delivers a faithful rendition of Brahms’ telling of the story of the beautiful medieval princess Magelone and the chivalrous Count Peter.

John Chest sings with utmost sensitivity in impeccable German and in a supple lyric baritone voice that serves excellently  both the delicacy of Ruhe, Süssliebchen and the heroic Verzweiflung.

Pianist Marcelo Amaral is the perfect partner for this project, commanding great pianistic technique and pliability in his work with Chest.

Rafael de Acha  http://www.Rafael’sMusicNotes.com

ANNE SOFIE VON OTTER’s A SIMPLE SONG

ANNE SOFIE VON OTTER

A SIMPLE SONG / BIS 2327 / ANNE SOFIE VON OTTER, MEZZO-SOPRANO and BENGT FORSBERG, ORGAN / 2018 / SWEDEN / SONGS BY BERNSTEIN, COPLAND, IVES, MAHLER, STRAUSS, PÅRT, MESSIAEN, POULENC, MARTIN, LISZT, RODGERS

Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sophie von Otter collaborates with Bengt Forsberg playing the Marcussen organ of St. Jacobs Church in Stockolm in an eclectic collection of Lieder by Mahler and Strauss, melodies by Poulenc, Messiaen, Duruflé, Martin and Liszt, and songs by Copland, Ives and selections from the musical theatre stage.

The results are effective to the extent that the selections serve to showcase the still fresh and functioning voice of the 64 year old singer and her facility with languages and styles.

Always a significant song recitalist Von Otter delivers intelligent readings of the Mahler and Strauss selections and later sounds quite comfortable in the French language selections by Messiaen and Poulenc.

The choice of the King of Instruments for accompanying this collection is less felicitous in this music not meant for liturgical use notwithstanding the addition of solo instruments in several of the tracks, and that is not to say that Forsberg does not play other than very well.

The engineering and the accompanying booklet, including translations are both excellent in this new release by the Swedish label BIS

Rafael de Acha      http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

MUSIC FOR ALL SEASONS AT PETERLOON 2019-2020

OCTOBER 6, 2019 Music by Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Carlisle Floyd, George Gershwin, and Louis Gottschalk
Amber R. Monroe, soprano Roman Rudnytsky, pianist

DECEMBER 8, 2019, 2 pm Holiday Celebration Music for All Seasons in Cincinnati presents its annual musical festivity with a Silent Auction, Door Prizes and Surprise Guest Artists

MARCH 8, 2020, 2 pm “Women in Music”
Music by Nadia Boulanger, Teresa Carreño, Agathe Backer Grøndahl, Fanny Mendelssohn, Florence Price, Clara Schumann, Barbara Strozzi, and Pauline Viardot
Quinn Patrick Ankrum, mezzo-soprano Ariadne Antipa, piano
Cindy Candelaria, mezzo-soprano Yaoyue Huang, piano
Marie-France Lefevbre, piano Jacob Miller, piano
Miriam Smith, cello Christopher Wilke, lute

MAY 10, 2020, 2 pm
Ludwig van Beethoven 250th Anniversary Concert
Piano Trio in C Minor, Op. 1 No. 3 Sonata No. 3, Op.12 for violin and piano
Seven Variations on a theme of Mozart
Piano Sonata “Moonlight”, First movement
Piano Sonata “Pathetique” – Second movement
Jonathan Lee, cello Marie France Lefevbre, piano
Kanako Shimasaki, violin Miriam Smith, cello Daniel Weeks, tenor
~~~
Five-admission Flexible passes – a discount of 30% off single ticket prices
$120 payable to Music Seasons at PO Box 43172, Cincinnati, Ohio 45243

Juan Diego Florez in Orfée et Euridice

Orphee-Et-Eurydice-ROH-1069-700x455

Christoph Willibald Gluck wrote 49 operas but arguably only one that has entered the repertory of some opera companies: Orfeo ed Euridice.

In 1762 Gluck offered to the Viennese his first version of the classic tale of the poet who goes to hell and back in search of his lost beloved. Twelve years later in Paris, the German-Bohemian composer had the original Italian libretto translated into French. Now titled Orfée et Euridice, Gluck’s new version of his former Italian-language opera still spoke French with an Italian musical accent.

Gluck’s opera partakes of much that is French too, starting with its extended ballet sequences and its elimination of anything remotely resembling operatic antics. Arias are brief and the music is mostly through-composed, with fewer repeats and with whatever embellishments are there explicitly written out to be sung as composed. But the impassionedly sweeping melodies, none more beautiful and dramatically compelling than Orfée’s lament over the second death of his Euridice are Italian in form and spirit.

The plot is simple. Orfée has lost his Euridice, who died after being bitten by a serpent. Heartbroken he descends to the underworld and pleads to its gods to let him bring her back to life. His wish is granted on the condition that they must journey out of Hades without once looking into each other’s eyes. In their journey out of Hades, Orfée is unable to continue without looking at his beloved. Once more she is struck dead. At this point the final outcome of the story depends on which version of Gluck’s opera is being discussed. The French one is more somber than the Italian, but I leave the spoiler out for the reader to discover, if interested.

In the live video recording of Orfée et Euridice coproduced by Concorde and the Teatro alla scala, Juan Diego Florez sings the title role in the version originally sung by the haute-contre Legroz. The Peruvian tenor handles the ungodly high tessitura with ease, emitting at all times a sound that has grown pleasantly darker than that of his former tenore di grazia days. The agility, the impeccable legato, the multiplicity of colors are still there, and so are the artistry and musicality that have defined the career of this artist.

The soprano who undertakes the role of Euridice is consigned by both the composer and the librettist to secondary status, in spite of which Christiane Karg holds her own dramatically and vocally in her extended encounter with Florez in act II.

Oddly, the part of L’Amore (read Cupid) allows a good singer to share the honors with those singing the title roles, and here soprano Fatma Said acts with in-your-face humor and sings gloriously the part of the interfering though well meaning god of love.

The production is interesting: a joint effort by stage director John Fulljames and choreographer Hofesh Schecter, whose dance company excels in the extended dance sequences inventively created by him. Conor Murphy designed both set and costumes and Michele Mariotti led with stylish authority the orchestra of the Teatro Alla Scala and its superb chorus.

Rafael de Acha         http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.co