Throughout 2019 I reviewed dozens of CD’s and DVD’s sent to me by a number of recording companies. This is my TOP TEN list.
Listening to the Baltimore Consort’s Sono Luminus CD The Food of Love made this acquaintance with a treasure trove of Elizabethan music sheer joy. Performed by Mary Anne Ballard, Mark Cudek, Larry Lipkis, Ronn McFarlane and Mindy Rosenfeld, on treble and bass viols, citterns, recorders, crumhorns, fifes, and bagpipes, with the silvery-voiced soprano Danielle Svonavec brilliantly bringing to life the music of several contemporaries of Shakespeare the album reminded us of what good music accompanied the works of the Bard.
Daniel Tarrab’s music is quintessentially Buenos Aires tango music. The Argentine master writes and plays his own music, mesmerizing with his jazzy riffs, his classical cadenzas, and his improvisatory flights of fancy that seamlessly bounce off each other. Tarrab reveals his soul in every bar of every tango of every track of Otra Mirada, available from both Silva Screen Records and Times Square Records.
Stewart Goodyear’s brilliantly inventive Callaloo is a musical fantasy in which snippets of Trinidad’s Calypso vie for attention with a heady mix of Jamaican Mento, afro-Cuban Guaguancó, Son, Conga and Guaracha, and inter-island Soca. The superbly hip Chineke Orchestra is beautifully conducted by Wayne Marshall, with a solo bow going to the terrific percussion section for its temperature-raising Latin drumming-on-steroids. The ORCHID CLASSICS CD includes the original band version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue given an energetic reading by Goodyear and friends.
Pentatone‘s CD of American songs with soprano Melody Moore and pianist Bradley Moore makes one hard put to find enough adequate words of praise for both artists. Assembling an album of over thirty songs by five American composers could be a daunting task, not because there are not enough songs to go around- which there are – but because numbing sameness could set in the hands of lesser artists. But throughout seven groupings of songs by Barber, Heggie, Floyd, Copland, and Gordon Getty, Moore and Moore find an inexhaustible variety of vocal and pianistic colors to sustain the interest and engage the emotions of the listener, leaving us wishing for more Moore.
There is open mindedness in the choice of compositions for the Ansonica CD CORO DEL MUNDO. There is also a purposeful commitment to an artistic philosophy that embraces the ideals of peace and brotherhood through music. Two Cuban choral groups: Schola Cantorum Coralina and Vocal Luna, lend their voices to an intriguingly varied collection of works by international composers in this CD, with both ensembles deftly handling the many improvisatory passages, with the all-women Vocal Luna creating dazzling instrumental sounds with its voices and with Schola Cantorum shining in various hip-swaying settings of Cuban poetry.
Norwegian harpist Sidsel Walstad is technically and musically a force of nature, holding her own against the massive orchestration of Alberto Ginastera’s Harp Concerto and his Variaciones Concertantes. Protean in her ability to spin a long legato line with an instrument notoriously hard to master, Walstad jointly with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, led by Miguel Harth-Bedoya delivers a memorable performance in this LAWO release.
The absolutely charming métier release FOUR with the superb London Myriad, a wind ensemble featuring Julie Groves on flute, oboist Fiona Joyce Myall, the clarinetist Nadia Wilson, and Ashley Myall on bassoon, introduced this listener to the chamber music of Eugène Bozza, Frank Bridge, Jean Françaix, Richard Rodney-Bennett, Jacques Ibert, and Claude Arrieu. The four in FOUR are formidable musicians, impeccable technicians, young of age but mature as players of music that is now lyrical, now outrageously humorous, and blessedly unpretentious.
During his rather short career Rossini wrote over three dozen-plus operas, many of which have fallen into unjust neglect, among them RICCIARDO E ZORAIDE. Now in a new release of this Rossini rarity by Cmajor, the double DVD features a terrific cast led by Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez and South African soprano Pretty Yende in the title roles. The 2018 live Pesaro Festival recording measures up to the highest of standards, boasting a superb line up of Rossini specialists. Florez and Yende are simply perfect. Tenor Sergey Romanovsky (Agorante) and mezzo-soprano Victoria Yarovaya (Zomira) are both spectacular. Kudos also go to the fast-rising Basque leggiero tenor Xabier Anduaga in the role of Ernesto, and the impressive bass-baritone Nicola Ulivieri as Ircano.
This BIS recording of the rough-hewn, big-boned 1869 original version of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov stars the young Ukrainian Alexander Tsymbalyuk in the title role. He is sensationally good, commanding yet restrained, and in control of the crowd in the Coronation scene, stunning in the Kremlin scene, vulnerable and ultimately heartbreaking in his Death scene. Finnish bass Mika Kares is Pimen, singing patricianly and lyrically at all times. Alexey Tikhomirov is no mere buffo bass but a sonorously menacing Varlaam. The Shuisky, Maxim Paster and the Grigory, Sergei Skorokhodov are both first-tier tenors luxuriously cast in supporting roles. Kent Nagano commands his forces magisterially, eliciting sheer musical magic from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the Gothenburg Opera Chorus, and the Brunnsbo Music Classes Children’s Chorus.
Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com