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Reena Esmail: This Love Between Us: Prayers for Unity Barbara Croall: Giishkaapkag The Elora Singers/Mark Vourinen TESR 001 Total time: 54:06 This recording by the two-dozen strong Elora Singers under Mark Vourinen clearly aligns with the contemporary emphasis on cultural diversity. The longer work, by the Indian-American ­composer Reena Esmail, incorporates multiple languages and attempts to survey the world’s major religions in seven movements – in Indian and Western musical styles. A tall order. The score (involving an orchestra of more than 20, ­including sitar and tabla) is most convincing in the “Hinduism” section, in which soloists alternate long legato…

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Love & Death Navarra String Quartet Orchid Classics ORC100135 Total time: 80 minutes You’ll often hear me telling people a couple of generations down the line that they should ­listen to new music of our time rather than Beethoven and Mahler, which they will enjoy better once they are in their 50s. Can’t say I’ve made many converts. All the usual excuses: get home from work, make supper, put the kids to bed, veg out on the sofa, no concentration left for the squeaks and squawks of contemporary composers. Yeah, been there, done that. But I’m not ­giving up trying…

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Peter-Anthony Togni: Sea Dreams. Luminous Voices Chamber Choir/Timothy Shantz. Katie Partridge (soprano), Sarah Han-Scinocco (flute), Sarah MacDonald (flute), Tova Olson, Victor Cheng (percussion), Jeff Reilly (bass clarinet) Leaf Music LM236 Total Time: 61:39 Radiant and/or relaxing choral recordings are not exactly in short supply. There is always room for another. Here the Calgary-based and accurately self-descriptive Luminous Voices under their music director Timothy Shantz make an ­admirable case for the sacred scores of the Nova Scotia composer Peter-Anthony Togni. We start with a calmly uplifting and mostly consonant Totus Tuus addressed to the Virgin. The simple texture of a Requiem…

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Herbert von Karajan The Complete Decca Recordings Decca 483 4903 (33 CDs) There was a time, about 60 years ago, when Herbert von Karajan was called unofficially the “General Music Director of Europe.” In 1960 he was conductor for life of the Berlin Philharmonic, artistic director of the Vienna State Opera, chief conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, and a frequent conductor with the Vienna Philharmonic, La Scala and the Salzburg Festival. He was also under contact to all three of the leading record companies: EMI, Deutsche Grammophon and Decca. At Decca he had the good fortune to work…

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Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Op. 12 Nos. 1-3; Op. 24 Andrew Wan, violin. Charles Richard-Hamelin, piano Analekta AN2 8795 Total time: 69:58 This disc works well as a COVID-era blues-chaser as well as a timely reminder of how comprehensive a genius Beethoven is for everyone everywhere (notwithstanding ­contemporary ideological effusions to the contrary). All four sonatas – and indeed all movements but one – are in a major key. Not that the radiant bonhomie ever seems easily won, Beethoven being the greatest of all masters of the art of representing life in its shade as well as sunshine. Andrew Wan…

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The Spirit and the Dust Beverley Johnston, percussion; Marc Djokic, violin; Amici Chamber Ensemble Centrediscs CMCCD 27920 Duration: 67 minutes Earlier this year, the Canadian Music Centre released a recording that we strongly recommend: The Spirit and the Dust. It creates a psychedelic atmosphere with otherworldly sounds and features percussionist Beverley Johnston, violinist Marc Djokic and the Amici Chamber ­Ensemble. The sounds of the marimba and ­vibraphone occasionally transport us into a trance, making the music pleasant to hear despite the modern musical language. These appealing and accessible works are by Dinuk Wijeratne, Christos Hatzis, Norbert Palej and Richard Mascall,…

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Britten: Sinfonia da Requiem (“The British Project.”) City of Birmingham SO/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla DG 4839072 Total time: 20:09 Like Beethoven’s Mass in C, which is ­overshadowed by the mighty Missa Solemnis, Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem is sometimes mistaken for the War Requiem, ­although the two works have nothing in ­common. The Sinfonia, for orchestra alone, lasts just 20 minutes and is riddled with personal ambivalence. Britten was commissioned to write it in 1939, having recently settled in New York and been exposed to its cosmopolitan lifestyle, so much more colourful than London’s greys. The commission came from the Japanese government,…

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Vivaldi: Luce e ombra Myriam Leblanc, soprano. Grégoire Jeay, flute; Antoine Malette-Chénier, Baroque triple harp; Marie-Michel Beauparlant, cello (Ensemble Mirabilia) Analekta AN 2 9137 Total time: 60:47 Equated in the public mind with peppy ­concerti, Vivaldi was similarly prolific (and predictable) as a vocal composer. This ­program spotlighting the young lyric ­soprano Myriam Leblanc mixes melancholy and uptempo numbers with instrumental entr’actes by a trio of flute, cello and harp (the last standing in for a harpsichord and sounding much like a lute). The opening track, an extended aria (“Gelido in ogni vena”) from the opera Il Farnace, brings to…

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By Justin Bernard, Arthur Kaptainis, Norman Lebrecht, Paul E. Robinson Vivaldi: Luce e ombra Myriam Leblanc, soprano. Grégoire Jeay, flute; Antoine Malette-Chénier, Baroque triple harp; Marie-Michel Beauparlant, cello (Ensemble Mirabilia) Analekta AN 2 9137 Total time: 60:47 3/5 Equated in the public mind with peppy ­concerti, Vivaldi was similarly prolific (and predictable) as a vocal composer. This ­program spotlighting the young lyric ­soprano Myriam Leblanc mixes melancholy and uptempo numbers with instrumental entr’actes by a trio of flute, cello and harp (the last standing in for a harpsichord and sounding much like a lute). The opening track, an extended aria…

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The second piano by Sergei Prokofiev was the least performed of the five until Evgeny Kissin came along a decade ago and showed it was not only playable but pleasant. At this early stage in his emergence – the opus number is in the low teens – Prokofiev was more inclined to be rebarbative than agreeable. But once Kissin stripped off the barbed wire, an underlying soft centre was exposed and other pianists piled in to make the once-deterrent concerto practically an audience draw. The Vienna Philharmonic were touring it only this week in Japan. Of the half-dozen interpretations I…

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