Intimate Voices – Sibelius String Quartets
(No. 4 in D minor, No. 2 in A minor)
ABC Classics 481 1982
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Once strangers to the catalogue, the Sibelius Quartets receive ever more outings – the latest being this offering from ABC. The best-known is No. 4 (Voces Intimae), the composer’s only mature essay in the medium. It was written in 1909, just a year after the trauma caused by a confrontation with cancer that overshadowed him for the next five years and was to also influence the desolate Fourth Symphony (1911). It’s in five movements, with two scherzo-like movements around the emotional core of the work, the Adagio di molto, which has some heart-felt playing from the Flinders. There’s an elusive mood in the Allegretto ma pesante: the main theme has all the sardonic character of Shostakovich/Prokofiev and you sense darker emotions are just beneath the surface of its ‘folky’ bonhomie. Sibelius’ tempo instructions for the finale basically amount to ‘faster and faster’ – so starting it too quickly might leave you with nowhere to go; even so, I wonder if the Flinders could have shown a little more abandon to create the ‘whirlwind of sound’ that I sense the composer wanted toward the end of the movement. Throughout though, they show careful attention to dynamics, and the players’ ensemble and the recording itself offer great detail. Various composers have been suggested as influences in the A minor Quartet of 1889 (Grieg, Mendelssohn) – certainly there’s not much to hear of the mature Sibelius. But it’s very enjoyable music, showing by turns liveliness and a delicate northern melancholy. Written by a student composer perhaps – but an accomplished one.
– Michael Muir
ABC Classics 4751304
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Love Languages is the fourth release by Grammy-award winning South African flautist and composer Wouter Kellerman. This album is a brilliant work that fuses together the music of many cultures and influences from around the world including Senegal, Spain, Cuba, India, Greece and even the United States. Kellerman’s album from the start is a full-on journey for the listener exploring many of the rich musical cultures that exist around the world. He artfully weaves together many different musical cultures, styles, practices and peoples to create a stunning tapestry of unique and beautiful music. This ‘tapestry’ is unified with Kellerman’s gorgeous flute sound as the feature on each track – using C flute, Bass and Alto. Each track is accompanied by many different combinations of brilliant handpicked players from around the globe and every corner of the earth. The album’s journey begins in India with a track Aishwarya with one of Kellerman’s main musical collaborators, Ricky Kej. The two collaborated previously on the Winds of Samsara album which won a Grammy earlier this year. Aishwarya is a brilliant example of some of Kellerman’s more virtuosic playing and shows how exceptionally unique his voice is on the flute. The album continues with another great track: Kellerman’s rearrangement of Antonio Vivaldi’s classic composition Winter. This beautiful piece has been reimagined with flute as the leading voice accompanied by The Australian Urban Orchestra on strings and the Soweto Gospel choir. It is these kind of unexpected collaborations and brilliant crosscultural musical relationships that Kellerman forms that create some of the most interesting and beautiful moments on the album.
– Benjamin Samuels
Divas and Tenors
Music by various composers sung
by 14 sopranos and 11 tenors with
Decca 487 8583 (2CDS)
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These two CDS comprise 17 arias and duets for soprano and 18 for tenor (plus a duet for Bryn Terfel, baritone, and Renee Fleming). Most of the singers are active; others (Sutherland, Pavarotti and Wunderlich) are not. On the whole I enjoyed the disc for sopranos better. In particular, I liked Anna Netrebko in La Boheme, Elina Garanca in Samson et Dalila, Patricia Petibon in Handel’s Rinaldo and Agnes Baltsa in The Barber of Seville. I did not enjoy Sumi Jo’s steely account of the Aria of the Queen of the Night or Cecilia Bartoli’s Casta Diva, for which she lacks the necessary vocal opulence and grand manner. Of the duets, Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca do better in the Tales of Hoffmann than Joan Sutherland and Jane Berbie do in Lakme. The music on the tenor disc is on a lower level and has too many multiple contributions by artists whose voices I do not like (Florez and Araiza, to name just two). In fact, the only tenor voice that I really enjoyed hearing was that of Joseph Calleja. However, those who admire Pavarotti and Domingo may find more to enjoy than I did. Other singers included are Auger, Kozena, Ti Kanawa, Cotrubas, Gheorghiu, Jenkins, Aler, Villazon, Boe, Vargas and Tezier. Several “pop” items are included, a mistake I think in a disc of this kind.
– Richard Gate
This artice was from Fine Music Magazine November edition. To read the complete magazine click here
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