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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

La Chronique du Disque (April 2015)

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For those unfamiliar with our monthly recordings review - If Sound Quality (SQ) and Overall Impression (OI) grades need further context, feel free to visit earlier posts in this series.

My Suggestions for April

Philippe Sly: In Dreams
[Store Purchase]

A couple of years ago, I shared a rather long post about a trip to Toronto and a visit to a record store. Recently, here in Ottawa, one of the local “brick and mortar” music stores closed down, and they held a liquidation sale. I ended up visiting their modest – and nearly depleted – classical section, and managed to find a few worthwhile acquisitions.

First Prize winner of the 2012 Concours Musical International de Montréal, French-Canadian bass-baritone Philippe Sly is quickly making a name for himself locally and on North-American concert stages, and a member of the prestigious Adler Fellowship Program at the San Francisco Opera since the 2012-13 season. “In Dreams” was released in October 2012 to great critical acclaim, and features lieder by Schumann, Ravel, Ropartz, and a new commission by Jonathan Dove. Philippe has a rich tone, and he is aptly accompanied by Michael McMahon, who has done the same for great Canadian singers like Catherine Robbin, Karina Gauvin, Lyne Fortin, Maureen Forrester and Richard Margison. The selections are well-suited for Mr. Sly’s skills as an interpreter in all three of the languages featiured. A very strong Analekta release of a promising, emerging talent. SQ = A, OI = A.

Montsalvatge: Canciones & Concertos / Lin, Barton Pine, Duchonova
[Store Purchase]

Xavier Montsalvatge is an important voice in the Spanish avant-garde movement, and discs that feature world-class interpreters like Jenny Lin and Rachel Barton-Pine in that repertoire are rare, which makes this acquisition especially interesting. Ms. Lin is featured in the Concierto Breve, a succinct yet showy piece of piano with Spanish flair that stands well with similar works by Albeniz and Turina. Soprano Lucia Duchonova handles the song cycle with freshness, under the capable baton of Brazil’s Celso Antunes, who makes a German Radio Orchestra sound Spanish. SQ = A, OI = A-.

Mozart - The Wind Concertos - Orpheus CO
More concertos, as we complete our two-month long arc on the subject, and set the stage for a few summer montages of Mozart’s piano concertos. Today, however, we will not focus on the many piano concertos or the handful or so violin concertos, but on the set of concertos Mozart composed for wind instruments – flute, bassoon, oboe, clarinet and horn. The collection features the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and some of its principal players as soloists. As is the case for anthologies, emphasis is on overall continuity rather than individual pieces, and there is no denying that these recordings provide a coherent look at the works. All soloists are top-notch, and strut their stuff with aplomb. Since the anthology includes the oboe concerto, there isn’t a performance of the second flute concerto (which is really the same piece of music), but we still have the gorgeous double concerto for flute and harp. Many enjotable minutes of music listening. SQ = A, OI = A.

Corigliano: The Red Violin
[eMusic ]
The Red Violin is a 1998 co-production (Canada, Italy and UK) directed by François Girard. It spans four centuries and five countries as it tells the story of a mysterious violin and its many owners. The film’s original score earned John Corigliano the Academy Award for Best Original Score. According to Corigliano, his childhood years were punctuated by snatches of the great concertos being practiced by his father (the long-time concertmaster of the New-York Philharmonic), as well as scales and technical exercises he used to keep in shape. It makes sense then that these deeply-engrained reminescences would lead him to write the repeating theme of the Red Violin, which morphed first into a “chaconne for violin and orchestra” and, later, into a full-blown concerto. This BIS recording features the concerto along with a concerto by Finland’s Jaakko Kuusisto and played by violinist Elina Vahala. A short tone poem by the Finnish composer completes this interesting disc. SQ = A, OI = A-.

Captain Blood (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Speaking of Award-Wining soundtracks, how about the original motion picture soundtrack to “Captain Blood”, composed and conducted by the legendary Erich Wolfgang Korngold for this Golden Age movie, full of pirates, battles and duels. A while ago, we featured in these pages a recording of “The Sea Hawk”, another score by Korngold for a High-Seas swashbuckling feature, in a studio performance by a modern orchestra. This “original recording” shows its age, I’m afraid. This may be an artifact of the available media, or just poor production values, but the sound quality is quite poor, often saturated and at times overwhelmingly so. This is a shame – the music is Korngold-esque, with all the typical Hollywood period earmarks. Probably worth shopping for a different digital pressing or provider. SQ = C, OI = B-.

May 1, 2014, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "En récital: Ciccolini & Satie" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more on our blogs in English and in French.