05_mc_mcguireMC Maguire - Trash of Civilizations

Max Christie; Mark Rogers; Trevor Tureski; Ryan Scott; MC McGuire

innova 742 (www.innova.mu)

 

The world as MC Maguire hears it is what “Trash of Civilizations” is all about. It may not necessarily be the same world the listener inhabits, but a fascinating world it is. On CPU, Maguire manipulates, reverses and expands his electronic samples to create a wall of sound backdrop to live musical performances. He may not be of the caliber of my esteemed colleague sound master John Oswald, but Maguire's tough guy aural stance makes for powerful and eclectic listening.

 

The Spawn of Abe is the stronger of the two double concertos featured here. Derived from an earlier work The Bride of Palestine, Maguire heaps a bundle of samples from singing to Arab pop music to Klezmer bands to helicopters to amass a jungle of sound to accompany live performances by Max Christie on B flat clarinet and Mark Rogers on oboe. Lots of excitement and lots of noise.

 

Narcissus auf Bali is almost 40 minutes of mutating rhythms performed with perfection by Trevor Tureski on vibraphone and Ryan Scott on marimba. A rewrite/remix of an earlier ballet work for choreographer Lee Su-Feh, the CPU layering encompasses a gamelan flavour. Too bad that often it just doesn't make sense – perhaps too much of a good noise thing combined with a lack of dance visuals makes the work drag. But dedication pays off in the final eight minutes of crescendo and sound hype.

 

MC Maguire's music is not for everyone. It's really weird yet highly original and rewarding for those who dare to listen.

 


04_Frank_HorvatA Little Dark Music

Frank Horvat

Independent LTLP02 (www.frankhorvat.com)

 

Released deliberately to coincide with Earth Day, Horvat’s new CD, on which he plays all the sounds with piano and electronic keyboards, will make waves musically. This is borne out further as he prepares to go on an extensive tour.

 

The opening Working With The Sun is startling with the prepared piano sonority (sheets of bond paper on the strings) impacting immediately. But it is a sunny piece, certainly the most upbeat of all of them. The Week After employs a keyboard sounding very much like an old Fender Rhodes in polyphony with the big Steinway, through the medium of the studio overdub. In this piece Horvat employs a repeating idée fixe of arching chord progressions. Another idée fixe is a feature of Poverty, with its chromatic bass line that seems a distant cousin to Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony.

 

In Earth Hour, Horvat allows himself more freedom in a long improvisation that explores tonalities, sonorities and rhythms. I’m curious as to why this improvisation is divided into a dozen tracks one could pick out one’s favorite segments, I suppose – but Earth Hour really should be heard as one continuous piece, a journey, really, which is its strength.

 

Recorded in CBC’s studio 211, the piano is as near to perfect as those expensive microphones can possibly reveal: there’s not even a pedal squeak. Engineer Dennis Patterson quietly excels behind the glass.

 

Highly recommended

03_fibonacci5 X 3

Trio Fibonacci

Centrediscs CMCCD 15710

 

“5 X 3” is a spectacular release on which Trio Fibonacci – violinist Julie-Anne Derome, cellist Gabriel Prynn and pianist Anna D'Errico – have chosen five works from their extensive repertoire of original Canadian compositions. This is Canadian music at its finest, from performance, compositional and production viewpoints.

 

Ana Sokolovic's Portrait parle is a shimmering soundscape of musical ideas based on an odd synoptic table of physiological traits from the French police circa 1900. Paul Frehner’s Quarks Tropes is a two movement work in which he superimposes violin and cello parts to his solo piano work Finnegans Quarks Revival. The brooding first movement with its mournful cello part is especially noteworthy. Analia Llugdar's haunting Tricycle explores resonance as a compositional tool with its sliding string lines and ringing piano part.

 

Trio Fibonacci is also known for its performance of classical repertoire. Fitting then that the other two works have the composers draw from it. Jean Lesage's The Mozart Project, subtitled “the author questions himself on the complexity of styles and the mixing of genres”, combines a bit of Mozart with a bit of Lesage to create a fascinating mix of musical styles. In Chris Paul Harman's Piano Trio, material from Bach's E Major Partita for solo violin is modified so that the three players play as one through the clever use of intervals, canons, rhythmic and pitch shuffling.

 

Trio Fibonacci plays with passion, accuracy and in-depth understanding of interpretation. “5 X 3” is a recording that should be heard by everyone.

 


02_feldman_babbittFeldman; Babbitt - Clarinet Quintets

Mark Lieb; Phoenix Ensemble

innova 746 (www.innova.mu)

 

Both Milton Babbitt and Morton Feldman have had a powerful impact on the music of our time. But these two American composers, born ten years and ninety miles apart, are rarely heard together, since their music comes from such different artistic worlds. This pairing of their clarinet quintets is revelatory.

 

Feldman’s soulful, tender and understated lyricism has a direct appeal. His Clarinet and String Quartet from 1983 still sounds audaciously visionary today, twenty-three years after his death.

 

Babbitt’s music is undoubtedly complicated by his use of serial techniques for all aspects of a piece, from the pitches to the rhythm and dynamics. But the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings from 1996 is warm, jazzy, and charming. This is not wholly surprising since Babbitt, who is now ninety-four years old, once wrote a Broadway musical, as the booklet notes tell us, and analyzed Jerome Kern’s All the Things You Are in lessons, as former student Steven Sondheim once recalled.

 

Clarinettist Mark Lieb uses the chameleon qualities of his instrument to weave in and out of the four strings, whose immaculate and expressive playing responds to the clarinet’s wealth of colours.

 

This is an important and exciting disc, and it offers the first recording of Babbitt’s quintet. So it deserves better than the unattractive yellowy-brown cover art which spills onto each page of the booklet, making the notes and bios – welcome as they are – difficult to read.

01_gurdjieffGurdjieff/Hartmann - Music for Piano Definitive Edition, Vol. 1 - Asian Songs and Rythms

Patrice Lare

XXI XXI-CD 2

 

This is an intriguing CD set on several levels. First off, the very idea of co-composition, in this case the enigmatic G.I. Gurdjieff (1877? - 1949) and the Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann (1885 - 1956), is rare in the Western classical tradition.

 

While Gurdjieff’s musical roots are vague, de Hartmann studied with three of Russia’s leading composers: Rimsky-Korsakov, Anton Arensky and Sergei Teneyev. The 22 year old de Hartmann first made a name for himself with his 1907 ballet The Pink Flower, produced by Diaghilev at the Russian Imperial Opera.

 

Gurdjieff on the other hand is known primarily as a mystic, philosopher and spiritualist, though his musical practice, informed by his theories on life and energy, did take centre stage at various times in his career. The very distinct paths of these two men overlapped when de Hartmann became a Gurdjieff disciple during the First World War. They co-penned some 200 short works for the piano – or at least it seems that Gurdjieff whistled or picked out melodies he imbibed during his 20 year peregrination, which de Hartmann then scored for piano.

 

Another fascinating spin on this collection of 49 brief piano pieces is that they were meant to accompany “sacred dances” choreographed by Gurdjieff. The 1979 Peter Brook movie Meetings with Remarkable Men shows a scene of such a dance. Another example can be viewed online: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3926028940560435071&hl=en#

 

How do these brief piano pieces work as listening music? A few have an innocent, evanescent charm. Much of it sounds like early 20th century parlour music with a Middle Eastern twist. The Montreal pianist Patrice Lare plays them with élan.

 

For seekers who wish to dive even deeper into the deep well of Gurdjieff’s music, there is a 19 hour compilation “Harmonic Development: The Complete Harmonium recordings 1948-1949” on the Basta Music label from The Netherlands.

 


01_rachmaninov_triosAlthough resident in Quebec since 1993, Paris-born Patrice Lare studied in Moscow for 8 years, and is steeped in the Russian piano school tradition. His playing provides a massive foundation for the Complete Rachmaninov Piano Trios (XXI-CD 2 1700) with his wife, cellist Velitchka Yotcheva (also Moscow-trained), and Canadian violinist Jean-Sebastien Roy. Rachmaninov’s Trios Elegiaques are both early works in his Romantic, post-Tchaikovsky mold. No.1 is a single-movement trio in G minor from 1892, and No.2 a three-movement work in D minor, written after the death of Tchaikovsky in late 1893 and dedicated “To the Memory of a Great Artist”. This is big but always sensitive playing, perfectly attuned to the style and nature of the music. Recorded at the Radio-Canada studios in Montreal, the sound quality matches the tremendous performances.

 

02_lang_lang_vadim_mischaI’ve sometimes wondered if the technical heights reached by Lang Lang are always matched by the depths of his interpretations, but he certainly does his artistic reputation no harm with his first chamber music CD, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov Piano Trios with Vadim Repin and Mischa Maisky. Presumably this is his final major release from Deutsche Grammophon (477 8099), following his $3 million signing with Sony; if so, it’s a fascinating farewell, suggesting chamber music as a new field with huge potential for him. The Rachmaninov trio is the G minor, and both here and in the Tchaikovsky A minor trio Lang Lang really seems to avoid “showy” playing, getting to the heart of the music and clearly sharing the interpretative view of his Russian colleagues. Again, the standard of the recording matches that of the two outstanding performances.

 

03_horn_triosAt first sight, there doesn’t seem to be any connection between the works on the latest CD from faculty members at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music (XXI-CD 2 1699), but they are in fact closely related. Jonathan Crow (violin), John Zirbel (horn) and Sara Laimon (piano) open with a beautifully warm reading of the Brahms E flat Horn Trio. This was the first work written for this instrumental combination, and was inspired by the death of the composer’s mother. Brahms chose to use not the newly-developed valve horn but the natural waldhorn, with its sentimental ties to his family and his youth in Hamburg. It was, in turn, a request from a Hamburg pianist for a horn trio to be played along with the Brahms that led György Ligeti to write his own Horn Trio in 1982; moreover, Ligeti had also lost his own mother earlier that year. Sub-titled “Hommage à Brahms”, it is a demanding, complex and multi-layered work in the same four-movement form. Again, the performance is exemplary. Brahms’ mentor Schumann wrote his Adagio & Allegro for horn and piano in 3 days in February 1849; the first substantial solo work to fully explore the potential of the new valve horn, it is still a demanding piece, and Zirbel and Laimon are terrific. Recorded at the acoustically-excellent Schulich School, the sound quality is outstanding.

06_stravinskyStravinsky - Pulcinella; Symphony in Three Movements

Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Pierre Boulez

CSO RESOUND CSOR 901 920

 

At the ripe old age of 85 Pierre Boulez remains as fit as a fiddle and twice as stringy. This recording from the Chicago Symphony’s own Resound label captures a concert from February 2009 featuring Boulez, currently celebrating his 15th season as CSO principal guest conductor, in fine form in familiar works by Stravinsky with an exceptionally attentive and virtuosic Chicago Symphony. The largest work here is the complete ballet score of Pulcinella, Stravinsky’s strategic retreat into neo-classicism from 1920. The work for small orchestra includes vocal contributions from a trio of fresh-faced singers, mezzo Roxana Constaninescu, tenor Nicholas Phan, and bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen, with Phan making the lasting impression. I am happy to see that the texts and multiple translations have been provided.

 

Though this is certainly not Boulez’s preferred period of Stravinsky’s oeuvre, he provides a genial performance nonetheless, though rather insouciant compared to the composer’s own account of it. It is bested by a magnificent performance of the Symphony in Three Movements of 1945, which revives the old spark of Stravinsky’s early rhythmic drive, and the enigmatic Four Études from 1914. The notably desiccated acoustic of Chicago’s Symphony Hall complements both the laser-like precision for which Boulez is celebrated and the dry champagne that is Stravinsky’s music.

05_tchaikovsky_prokofievTchaikovsky - Rococo Variations; Prokofiev - Sinfonia Concertante

Gautier Capuçon; Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre; Valery Gergiev

Virgin Classics 9 694486 0

 

This excellent CD is a live recording of a Christmas Eve 2008 concert at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg.

 

Gautier Capuçon is an outstanding player, although I feel he tends to favour detail over the bigger phrase at times. Such an approach is fine in the Rococo Variations, where the virtuosic demands outnumber the emotional, and Capuçon handles them with ease and style.

 

The Prokofiev is clearly another matter, but Capuçon rises to the challenge. Dating from the early 1950s, when Prokofiev was still under censure for his “antidemocratic tendencies”, the Sinfonia concertante is a reworking of his Op.58 Cello Concerto from the late 1930s, and marked a return to his true style. Even so, Prokofiev was wise enough to supply an alternative – and more orthodox! – version of the finale for the premiere. Gautier has apparently loved this fascinating work since his childhood days, and it shows in his convincing and nuanced performance, full of the “calm power and serene strength” that he rightly says the cellist needs.

 

The orchestral support from superstar conductor Gergiev and the OMT is, not surprisingly, of the highest order. The recording ambience is warm and natural, with no hint of audience noise. The booklet notes are excellent, and are particularly illuminating on the publishing history of the Tchaikovsky.

 

I may still a bit reluctant to fully jump on the Capuçon bandwagon, but this CD certainly has me now hanging on to the tailgate!

04_mahler_7Mahler - Symphony No.7

Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich; David Zinman

RCA Red Seal 88697 50650 2

 

Integral sets of Mahler symphonies have run amok as the double whammy of the composer’s sesqui-and-centennial anniversaries approach (born 1860, died 1911). Among the finest of these is the ongoing series, released in chronological order, by David Zinman and the Swiss Tonhalle Orchestra.

 

The Seventh Symphony has long been regarded as the problem child of the set, a true test of a conductor’s insight due to its multi-faceted interpretive challenges. It is, relatively speaking, an uncharacteristically optimistic work and one which hints at advances in Mahler’s harmonic thinking to which he would return in his uncompleted Tenth Symphony. Critics of the past regarded the composer’s appropriation of a sunny disposition in this work forced and disingenuous. Influential curmudgeon T.W. Adorno declared the work a complete failure, dismissing Mahler as “a poor yea-sayer”, while Mahler’s acolyte Bruno Walter avoided this work throughout his career. Today Mahler’s puzzling ambiguities have captured the imagination of our own era to such an extent that he now rivals Beethoven in his universal appeal. Zinman approaches his task with characteristic thoroughness and a scrupulous adherence to Mahler’s exacting performance directions. His admirable control of orchestral balances is well captured by RCA’s production team. Though Zinman’s performance of the three central movements of this vast, symmetrical five-part structure are beyond reproach, the convulsions of the weighty first movement are less well defined and the rollicking finale, though certainly festive, falls short of the triumphant atmosphere established by Bernstein and Abbado in their multiple recordings of this work. Despite the rather undernourished sound produced by the Zurich string section and Zinman’s micromanagement of events hindering the spontaneity demanded by Mahler’s more operatic moments, this is nonetheless a major recording which I heartily recommend.

03_grieg-mogensenPiano Music of Edward Grieg, Volume 2

Sandra Mogensen

Independent CHM 0901120 (www.sandramogensen.com)

 

Edvard Grieg was not an especially complicated composer – yet, ironically, his style offers something of a challenge for performers. On one hand, a pianist should respect the heart-on-sleeve emotionalism and down-to-earth directness of Grieg’s ideas. On the other hand, this music demands interpretation: a pianist must do something with it.

 

And Sandra Mogensen, a Canadian pianist who lives in Stratford, Ontario, does plenty with it. With all of the 23 selections recorded here, there’s a strong sense of mood and dramatic purpose. In her hands, each piece on this clear-sounding disc captures an image or tells a story.

 

For instance, there’s a Schumannesque flutteriness to Butterfly (Op. 43. No. 1); and a sunny, pleasant disposition to Gade (Op. 57 No. 2) – a musical portrait of Grieg’s teacher Niels Gade. As well At the Cradle (Op. 68 No. 5) is suitably dreamy, and Bell Ringing (Op. 54 No. 6) is dark and mysterious. For Nordic folksiness look to Springdans (Op. 17 No. 1) or Norwegian (Op. 12 No. 6).

 

Some of these pieces go beyond the expression of a single idea, enfolding contrasting material into single movements. Mogensen’s performance of the famous Solveig’s Song (Op. 52 No. 2) is alternately mournful and sweet. And the enigmatic Vanished Days (Op. 57. No. 1) – the longest piece on the disc – runs the gamut from introspective wistfulness to intense high drama, with some playful passages thrown in for good measure.

 

For those with a penchant for sterner stuff, some of the pieces recorded here will no doubt seem overly sentimental. Be that as it may, Mogensen pleads Grieg’s case sincerely and well.

02_faure_violinFauré - Works for Violin and Piano

Olivier Thouin; Francois Zeitouni

XXI XXI-CD2 1702

 

This fine disc’s two “pillars” are the early and late Fauré violin sonatas. Sonata No. 1 in A Major shows Fauré already at the height of his powers. This performance realizes the music’s striving, yearning sensibility. The passionate first movement features Fauré’s distinctive modal and chromatic harmony. Zeitouni controls the florid piano accompaniment well, bringing out motifs and subordinating lines, or underlining the violin’s melodic shaping. In the barcarole-like slow movement, sensitivity to harmony is displayed in violinist Thouin’s classic, subtly-coloured style. Both players meet the demands of the intricate, skittering scherzo, featuring fine staccato from Thouin’s bow.

 

The duo makes the most of the disc’s three lighter works. Berceuse in D Major is like a charming French mélodie. I find the Romance in B-flat Major too conventionally sentimental, but the forward-looking Andante in the B-flat Major’s melody in ascending fourths receives particularly interesting harmonizations.

 

The performers capture well the much different character of Sonata No. 2 in E minor: the first movement’s soaring lines seeming to ascend out of tumult towards light; the second movement’s tossing and turning; and the finale’s conflict and ambiguity resolving only at the final measure.

 

This disc may attract new listeners to Fauré, while aficionados will find it faithful to the composer’s style and spirit. The recording quality is excellent, capturing a full dynamic range in all registers, and Zeitouni's accompanying notes only reinforce the case being made for this great composer.

01_raymond_spasovskiPhoenix 

Raymond Spasovski

Independent (www.raymondspasovski.com)

 

I don’t imagine Walter Hall has changed all that much since I gave my one and only noon-hour recital there many years ago as a fourth-year composition student. But what I do know is that pianist Raymond Spasovski plays much better than I did on this live recording of a concert held there last October. Born in Macedonia, Spasovski made his debut at the age of 10 with the Macedonian Symphony, and since then, has appeared with major orchestras throughout Europe and North America to great acclaim.

 

This CD, his first, presents an attractive program drawing heavily from the late Romantic period, but opening with a short sonata by the 18th century composer Mateo Albeniz. Although this piece and the Bach Prelude in A minor BWV 807 clearly demonstrate his technical dexterity, it’s the repertoire from the late 19th century in which he particularly excels, especially that by Spanish and South American composers. Indeed, de Falla, Granados, Isaac Albeniz, Lecuona, and Ginastera are well represented, and he approaches them all with great panache. The playing is confident and bold, particularly demonstrated in the Tres Danzas Argentinas by Ginastera, and Granados’ Allegro de Concierto. Yet his interpretation of the Chopin Berçeuse shows a decidedly more sensitive side to his playing.

 

While I’m always a little leery about live recordings with respect to audio quality, the sound here is well-balanced and warmly resonant - and even the frequent applause doesn’t detract in any way. So a big bravo, Mr. Spasovski – the Walter Hall Steinway sounds much better under your capable hands than it ever did with mine!

04_terfelBad Boys

Bryn Terfel; Swedish Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra; Paul Daniel

Deutsche Grammophon 477 8091

 

Tenors may win winsome hearts playing the romantic lead, but, as we often see, the “bad” bass-baritone elicits a strange yet much more compelling attraction. Perhaps it's raw brute force that turns our heads and makes us quiver with excitement, or maybe it's the element of danger that we find fascinating: the kind of thrill that even the noble Donna Elviras of this world can't possibly resist. With this recording and a tour of the same name, Bryn Terfel offers highlights from villains of the opera house and musical theatre in all their various forms, ranging from gossips, swindlers and cads to the ruinous, murderous and satanic.

 

He is menacing as Sweeney Todd, cruel and calculating as Iago (Otello) and Scarpia (Tosca), pure evil as Mephistopheles (Faust) and Kaspar (Der Freischutz). As Sportin' Life (Porgy & Bess) “It ain't Necessarily So” transposed to the baritone range gives him the opportunity for a carefree, devil-may-care attitude. The final scene of Don Giovanni provides the best showcase of all as Terfel sings all three roles: The Commendatore, Leporello and Don Giovanni.

 

Bryn Terfel is a consummate showman; he brings these characters driven by lust, revenge and greed to life with sheer power and range of emotion few are capable of. And, at the same time, he seems to be having an awfully good time giving us a good scare with a fierce growl.

 

03_finleyGreat Operatic Arias

Gerald Finley; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Edward Gardner

CHANDOS Opera in English CHAN 3167

 

For no logical reason, opera sounds better when you can’t understand it. We seem satisfied with knowing the plot and reading projected “surtitles” in order to follow the progress of grand opera. We grant a foreign language status as carrier of refinement and class, keeping opera tantalizingly beyond the reach of many potential new followers. English seems just fine for Oklahoma and Pinafore but what about Verdi and Wagner?

 

Baritone Gerald Finley is a key player in the CHANDOS Opera in English series funded by British Philanthropist Peter Moores whose mission is to have us all enjoy opera as much as Italian, French and German audiences do. The project’s core belief is that opera in an audience’s native language conveys the immediacy of each moment more effectively.

 

Perhaps not surprisingly, operas originally written in English seem just fine. And this may actually prove the point. Gerald Finley does a truly splendid job with arias from Adams’ Doctor Atomic and Turnage’s The Silver Tassie. These tracks offer credibility to other selections from Don Giovanni, Die Meistersinger and Otello. The Tosca excerpt is especially rewarding.

 

Whatever the final verdict from opera lovers, it’s clear that opera sung in English translation seems a bit odd – at first. Much depends on the quality of the translation, matching English text to the phrasing and cadence of music never intended as a poetic partner. Done well, however, it actually works. Listen to Gerald Finley and you’ll understand why.

 


02_wagner_gotterdamWagner - Gotterdammerung

Schmittberg; Hoff; Mowes; Meszar; Foster; Weissmann; Staatskapelle Weimar; Carl St. Clair

ArtHaus Music 101 359

 

The last, cataclysmic instalment of Wagner’s monumental Ring cycle from Weimar is very much a vision of the director, Michael Schultz. His strong philosophy is most manifest here where his pessimistic views are aided by the apocalyptic story. “There are tears in the world/as though God had died…” The grief is never ending.

 

To the cruelty and murder so prevalent in the drama the director adds his own issues: cruelty to women and even to defenceless animals. The 2nd act turns into a pandemonium of mass rape by the Gibichung thugs (reminding us of British soccer hooligans). Brunnhilde’s horse Grane is portrayed by a pantomime actress with flowing white hair much abused throughout by Hagen and the adolescents also added to the production. The Director believes that children of the world are cast out, helpless therefore aggressive. They witness all major turns of event but are unable to participate and move around in curiosity, with blood-stained hands.

 

Difficult to describe this theatrical experience with words, one really has to see how powerfully it’s handled by sparse visual means. Stage background is black throughout; there are virtually no sets and lighting plays a prominent role. So memorable to see Siegfried tenderly mourned by Grane, the long suffering horse and at the final scene water is cascading from above over the abused women, who are reborn & cleansed by Brunnhilde’s self sacrifice and redemption.

 

Young American conductor Carl St. Clair keeps tight control and never lets the tension sag. The cast is very strong. Renatus Meszar as Hagen, is a formidable presence and even more formidable voice. Catherine Foster easily conquers the endurance test of Brunnhilde’s role. Siegfried, Norbert Schmittberg, is treated as a vulnerable, somewhat naïve plaything for the evil Gibichung, a fine choice for not being the typical beefcake Wagner tenor. Gunther, portrayed as weak and somewhat tragicomic, is sung and acted wonderfully by Mario Hoff. Great theatre, this is a moving production that will give you food for thought.

 


01_haydn_orlandoHaydn - Orlando Paladino

Marlis Petersen; Tom Randle; Pietro Spagnoli; Magnus Staveland; Freiburger Barockorchester; René Jacobs

EuroArts 2057788

 

Early music enthusiasts may be attracted to this DVD by the name René Jacobs, renowned as a counter-tenor; here he enjoys the role of musical director. From the opening Sinfonia, he brings out the best in the Freiburger Barockorchester.

 

Last summer was the two-hundredth anniversary of Haydn’s death; this DVD shows the Berlin State Opera's commemorative production. Almost incredibly, with the reputation Haydn enjoys for serious symphonies and masses, Orlando Paladino, with its heroic and comic themes, was the Haydn opera performed most often during his lifetime.

 

The accompanying notes with this production are comprehensive in all but one respect – only two-and-a-half lines are devoted to the plot of the opera. The rest of the notes cover historical context. Mercifully, the Internet yields several extremely helpful synopses.

 

There are spirited performances in Act 1 from Magnus Staveland (Medoro) in the aria “Parto. Ma, oh dio, non posso” and also from Marlis Petersen’s Angelica, who makes her presence felt throughout the act. Tom Randle is noteworthy for his passionate interpretation of Orlando. What a contrast with the enforced timidity and frustration of Sunhae Im (Eurilla). One feels poor Eurilla is left to sort everything out on her own; she gets aggravation - and our sympathy vote.

 

Acts 2 and 3 are, if anything, more zany. “Vittoria, vittoria!” (Victor Torres, Pasquale) proves this. Opera purists will appreciate “Aure chete, verdi allori” (Angelica) and “Miei pensieri, dove siete?” (Orlando) but frankly, for those expecting the costumes and scenery to be as authentic as the orchestra, they aren’t. Let’s just say that this is a highly individual production!

 


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