Browsing: CD and Book Reviews

No-one knew what to expect of 2022. In January, masked or locked down, we gazed into crystal balls of mortality. The chamber music of Harrison Birtwistle caught my ear with surprise and delight, only for the composer to leave us soon after. Fred Rzewski, another recent fatality, received the best performance ever of The People United Will Never Be Defeated. The Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov escaped his homeland and enriched us with a new symphony. Life hung by a thread. Rival sets of Sibelius symphonies from rising Finns, Klaus Mäkelä and Santu-Matias Rouvali, sharpened our critical perceptions, with Rouvali holding…

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Overture of Hope, Isabel VincentISBN: 978-1-68451-349-9 (Hardcover 288 pp., $27.99, 2022) Regnery History For opera fans interested in 20th Century history, here’s an absorbing and ultimately uplifting read, perfect for the Holiday Season. Overture of Hope tells the true story of Ida and Louise Cook, two British sisters, who were big opera fans in the 1920’s and 30’s. They somehow managed to befriend Austrian conductor Clemens Krauss, who was a favourite of Hitler. Krauss secretly asked the Cook sisters to help save Jewish musicians from certain death during the Third Reich. Through their collaboration with such opera stars as Amelita…

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In May 1996, the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov was informed that his wife, the musicologist Larissa Bondarenko, had died suddenly and unexpectedly in a hospital in Kyiv. The shock silenced him for several months. After a long while he began writing a Requiem in her memory, jumbling the traditional Catholic order of movements familiar from so many classical works and occasionally breaking off in mid-phrase, as if too distracted to continue. Living under Soviet control, Silvestrov developed multiple techniques to confuse the authorities and cut through to a sympathetic audience. He created an unmistakable individuality out of a heterodoxy of neo-classicism,…

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breatheChad Lawson, piano; Esther Yoo, Thomas Gould and David O’Leary, violins; Rachel Roberts, viola; Richard Hardwood and Peter Gregson, cellos; Royal Philharmonic OrchestraDecca Records, 2022 Remembering to breathe is instinctual, but with so much happening in the world, it can be easy to ignore such a necessary thing. Chad Lawson’s album breathe, which features solo piano works and orchestral arrangements, invites listeners to let go of everything they have held inside—to finally exhale. The works on the album are slow and relaxed, and there is not a single tense moment. Though works like irreplaceable and letting go tackle themes of…

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AfterAndrew Staniland, Benton Roark, composers; Kate Read, violaLeaf Music, 2022 Prominent Canadian violist Kate Read, based in Newfoundland, is a prolific performer. As a chamber musician, principal violist of the Newfoundland Symphony, veteran of leading orchestras in Europe (including the London Symphony Orchestra and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields), she is an eminent spokesperson for the viola. This is obvious from the stellar performances throughout the eclectic selection of conventional and new music. On the conventional side, EvenNight opens with fanfare and presence, performed with relentless energy. It is a characterized by a dance-like rhythm that is…

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Schubert: The Complete Sonatas and Major Piano Works, Vol. 7 – The WandererMathieu Gaudet, pianoAnalekta, 2022 Mathieu Gaudet’s courageous and impressive project, the recording of the complete Sonatas and Major Piano Works by Franz Schubert, reaches the seventh volume. The pianist (who is also an emergency-room physician) deals here with the youthful Sonata No. 1 in E Major, D.157, the Sonata No. 13 in A Minor, D.784, and the monumental Wanderer Fantasy in C Major, D. 760. What comes out of this CD is an admirable test of sound balance and clear structural conception of the pieces. What Gaudet manages to…

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Bocelli : A Family ChristmasAndrea Bocelli, Matteo Bocelli, Virginia Bocelli, voicesDecca, 2022 Andrea Bocelli’s voice has remained fresh for more than 25 years. For those who don’t know it yet, it will continue to be fresh for the next generation! Bocelli: A Family Christmas presents the voices of the illustrious singer’s two offspring, Matteo and Virginia Bocelli, reunited with their father for the first time on record. As you will understand, this is definitely not a Christmas album like others. The man who has dedicated his entire career to classical and pop crossover manages to recreate the perfect atmosphere for holidays…

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Scat C.A.T.Vodova DaySelf-produced, 2022 If a record cover telegraphs its content, this is the one. Behind the Scat C.A.T. stage name is one Claude Arnold Thibault, a jazzer at heart. Full marks to him for his flawless diction; you don’t miss a word. Next, he has recruited quite a team of sidemen, several being his own siblings, and a few established citizens of our community, pianists Felix Stüssi and John Sadoway, bassist Frédéric Alarie, and hornmen André Leroux and Ron Di Lauro making cameo solo appearances. Twelve jazz evergreens are heard in this hour-long album, the likes of Just…

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Essence BaroqueJudy Hung, baroque violin, harpsichord and violoncello da spallaSelf-published, 2022 With a name like Essence Baroque, one would expect Judy Hung’s album to present a fulsome exploration of the baroque musical period, but the multi-instrumentalist only narrowly succeeds in this endeavour. Violin works by revered musicians like Bach, Matteis and Telemann populate the album, but save for the fourth and fifth parts of Bach’s Partita in D Minor, No. 2, Hung’s choices of compositions are not particularly dynamic. While they are all performed with technical prowess, they do not help Hung display the expressiveness and grandeur one would expect…

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SIBELIUS: Symphonies 1-7/Tapiola/Orchestral FragmentsOslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Klaus MäkeläDecca Classics, 2022 Finland is a small country but it has long been known for producing way more than its share of world-class conductors. Few have risen as fast as 26-year-old Klaus Mäkelä. He is in his second season as music director of the Orchestre de Paris and third season as music director of the Oslo Philharmonic, and just a few months ago he was chosen to be the next conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Because of his current commitments, he doesn’t take over in Amsterdam until 2027; in the meantime,…

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