CD Reviews – Part 1

CD-1_tutto Buffo

TUTTO BUFFO
Arias from operas by Donizetti, Mozart, Rossini and other composers. Paolo Bordogna, bass-baritone, with the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini/ Francesco Lanzilo
Decca 481 1685
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Paolo Bordogna (who sang in The Marriage of Figaro for Opera Australia this year) is described variously as a baritone or a bassbaritone, but the arias on this disc are usually associated with a true bass and in some cases his low notes seem distinctly on the sketchy side. Nevertheless, there is a good deal to enjoy in this collection of buffo arias from Italian operas. Bordogna, who is 43, has a rich, mellifluous voice, which remains even throughout its range and is of a pleasant, firm timbre. His enunciation, of course, is excellent, his singing always musical and he enters very fully into the characters that he is portraying. His versatility is such that in two opera by Donizetti he sings more than one part, in one case that of a woman. I particularly enjoyed Dulcamara’s aria from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore and Falstaff’s monolog on honour from Verdi’s Falstaff. Bordogna is particularly skilled in the rapid “patter” style of singing as demonstrated in arias from Il barbiere di Sivigilia and La Cenerentola, both by Rossini. The aria from Nino Rota’s Il Cappello di paglia di Firenze turned out to be much more interesting than I expected, that from Mascagni’s Le Maschere as bad as I expected. Accompaniments throughout are excellent, as is the recording.
– Richard Gate

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CD-2_arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg
Complete Works for Piano Solo
Danae Killian, piano
Move Records
MCD 513
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Schoenberg the pianist? Not quite. In fact, he never actually played the piano. An astounding fact, considering that he wrote masterfully for the instrument. His oeuvre for the piano is presented here by Australian pianist Danae Killian. The track listing is in compositionally chronological order which allows the listener to track his development through the early experimentations with atonality in the Three Pieces, Op 11, right through to the stunning Suite, Op 25 which pays homage to the baroque suite and delivers some dynamic and witty writing that requires a high level of precision in all aspects of ones playing. It is advisable to listen to these works whilst following the score. The pieces are easily downloadable from imslp.org. Only then can one appreciate the complexity of these miniature compositions. I found the brevity of the Six Little Piano Pieces, Op 19 from 1911 the most compelling works on this disc. His sparseness in texture combined with a mixture of bright and colourful harmonies make these light but carefully constructed movements a very attractive set to listen to. Killian has also included a link to an essay entitled ‘For Grasping Schoenberg: An Epistemology of Sense and Meaning in Word, Music, and the Moving of a pianist’s arms’, which looks at her approach to her thinking of who she describes as a ‘notoriously difficult modernist composer’. Pollini’s reading has to this point been the benchmark for the recording of these works. Killian treats each work as a unique entity and entrusts a model of obliqueness and character to a collection of technically demanding and richly rewarding pieces. This is an excellent CD on all levels and from an intellectual standpoint,
well worth purchasing.
– Frank Shostakovich

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CD-Island Songs

Island Songs
Brown and Breen Piano Duo
with Russell Smith, Didgeridoo
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Bonnie Brown and Louisa Breen formed the Piano Duo in 2011 and are joined here by Russell Smith in Island Songs the opening work by Legendary Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe who dedicated his last major composition to the Brown and Breen Piano Duo just before his death in 2014. Island Songs, written for two pianos and didgeridoo, is based on traditional Indigenous songs from the Thursday Island region. Bursting with the quintessential colours, energy and excitement for which Australian music is known the world over, this virtuosic program also features works by Ross Edwards, Elena Kat-Chernin and Miriam Hyde. Peter Sculthorpe, one of Australia’s most eminent composers, had not previously created a two piano work in a long career that had produced over 350 works but he readily agreed to the opportunity and delivered the work, Island Songs, two years later. It was recorded at the ABC Iwaki auditorium in Melbourne in late 2013 and the world premiere was given in France in late 2014. Sculthorpe’s Island Songs for two pianos and guest didgeridoo is a totally reflective and expressive work. Songs of home, Lament and Yearning are two of the works which have been performed in various Australian venues. Kats-Chernin’s Six Re-Inventions arranged for two pianos, performed by Genevieve Lacey on various recorders, shows a charming mix of inventions No.4 and No.1 by J.S. Bach. A flight of sunbirds – nine bagatelles for piano duet depicts Ross Edwards’ charmingly energetic style. The work was commissioned by, dedicated to and given its premier performance by Elizabeth Green. Miriam Hyde’s scintillating and charming Toccata for two (for piano duet) brings the very interesting program to an altogether premature end.
– Emyr Evans

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