Recordings

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall, in Vivaldi’s Griselda, and in Handel’s Messiah: A Review & Artist Overview

September 2, 2011
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This summer, I was in one of the last great record stores in North America, (Manhattan’s Academy Records) and I came across both the Iestyn Davies 2009 recital at Wigmore Hall AND the 2009 Stephen Layton/Polyphony Messiah with Davies as alto soloist.  Earlier in that same visit to NY, the publicist for the sexy French record label Naïve gifted me the 2006 release of Vivaldi’s Griselda, boasting a freshman Iestyn Davies in the bit-role of Corrado. Either Handel on his heavenly throne was guiding me to listen to Davies, or I am easy prey for the marketing strategists behind this rising star countertenor…

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Andreas Scholl & Accademia Bizantina O Solitude: A Review

July 5, 2011
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If I could marry a song, it would probably be one by Henry Purcell. There are so many favorites from which to choose, and they are all so appealing – at times unabashedly erotic, at other times ravishing in their melancholy, short and perky, intellectual, or flashy with substance. I want to relish every one of them. I am also a huge fan of Andreas Scholl. He is the rarely seen Complete Singer. He always delivers beautiful tone, prepares the music like a scholar, and demonstrates a sense of show business in his stage performances and recordings.

The late 2010 release O Solitude – Songs and Arias by Henry Purcell was poised to be my new international object of love: The greatest English composer of his time (not adverse to employing Italian operatic style and French dance rhythms), performed by today’s leading German countertenor and a sexy Italian band.

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L’Arpeggiata, Monteverdi Vespro della Beata Vergine – 1610: A Review

May 12, 2011
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If you don’t know about L’Arpeggiata, it is time for you to catch up. Austrian Christina Pluhar – continuo mistress extraordinaire – with her signature flowing ironed-straight red hair and child-like short bangs framing her porcelain face is the portrait of chic, euro-femininity. A huge fan of her work, I waited in suspense to hear her take on the 1610 Vespers, even though I had spent the better part of 2010 (the work’s 400th anniversary year) listening to it on record and from the pews of chapels large and small.

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Adam Viktora, Ensemble Inégal, and The Prague Baroque Soloists Zelenka Missa Sancti Josephi and Litaniae Xaverianae: A Review

April 12, 2011
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Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) occupies an uncomfortable place in music history: He is often relegated to the sidelines when discussing the music of his better-known contemporaries and has the distinction of being compared unfavorably to Johann Sebastian Bach. Zelenka’s chamber music, including the sonatas for two oboes, bassoon, and basso continuo, are among his more familiar and often-recorded works – quirky and demanding, and sometimes a bit long-winded. Yet they reveal a composer with a fine grasp of counterpoint and a unique sense of melody influenced by the folk music of his native Bohemia.

Zelenka fans have a new and impassioned advocate in organist and conductor Adam Viktora and his superb Prague Baroque Soloists and Ensemble Inégal…

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Darryl Taylor How Sweet The Sound – A Charm of Spirituals: A review

April 12, 2011
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I love hearing erudite, classicaly trained singers extend their technique in Negro Spirituals. The  1990 concert of  Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman singing spirituals with James Levine was one of my earliest inspirations, fascinating to me as a teenaged chorister.  As a fifteen year-old, I realized that this music was powerful, exciting, and infectiously tuneful, and that a singer like Jessye Norman – who seemed so regal, pompous, and affected – became animated and took big risks that felt spontaneous and competitive.

Darryl Taylor’s singing is masterful on this record. He demonstrates long, legato lines, unbelievable breath control, surprising high notes plucked out of the sky…

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Franco Fagioli Canzone e Cantate: A Review

March 1, 2011
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Argentinian Countertenor Franco Fagioli’s new recital disc, inconspicuously titled Canzone e Cantate, heralds the arrival of a world-class artist. This is an instant classic… a must-have.  Canzone e Cantate is a recording for fans of countertenors, the Italian baroque, continuo bands, bel canto vocal pyrotechnics, and especially for fans of Cecilia Bartoli. You read correctly – Cecilia Bartoli…

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Clerestory Night Draws Near: A Review

February 1, 2011
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Clerestory, a nine man a cappella ensemble founded in the Bay Area in 2006, has released its first studio recording, Night Draws Near. This meditation on death, loss, and living in the face of human mortality is inspired by the traditions of Halloween, All Soul’s Day, and The Day of the Dead.

Though not true to the form of a Requiem Mass, Compline, or Evensong service, there is a frequent return to Mass-like elements throughout Night Draws Near that at least conjures this sort of structure. Great attention was paid to key relationships from track to track, and the CD flows in a well-conceived manner…

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Philippe Jaroussky Opium: A Review

January 1, 2011
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Philippe Jaroussky "Opium"

Reviewer Oliver Camacho was both skeptical and enthusiastic about this late 2009 release of French mélodies. It is comprised of French mélodies that collectively feel like a meal made of flakey pastries; however, they individually delight in the same way. Could a countertenor d’agilità pull off a 66 minute recital of belle-époque parlor songs that have previously been the domain of the great Gérard Souzay, Pierre Bernac, and Maggie Teyte?

In a word, Ouais…

Young countertenors take note that you need not be confined to Handel and Caldara if you can do it all as well as the featherweight champion.

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