CD Reviews – Command Performance Arias and Songs |Dancing Shadows |Flute Vox

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Command Performance
Arias and Songs by Weber, Verdi, Rossini, Bellini and other composers
Joan Sutherland, soprano, with the London Symphony Orchestra/ Richard Bonynge
Eloquence 480 4670 (2CDS)
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The selections on these CDs represent the kind of music that Queen Victoria, a great music lover and a singer herself, might have ordered for a command performance. The first disc is devoted to arias, the second to songs. The recording was made in 1963 when Joan Sutherland’s voice was still in pristine condition. Her singing throughout is characteristic of her work at the time. When the music is fast and lies at the highest register of her voice, as in the arias from Meyerbeer’s Dinorah, Verdi’s I Masnadieri and Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, her virtuosity is truly extraordinary and brilliant. When the music is slow and lying-lowing, the flaws in her singing become apparent – the lack of inflexion, her poor enunciation and the absence of vigorous declamation; even the voice itself sounds less attractive. Her performance of Ocean thou mighty monster from Weber’s Oberon compares unfavourably with that of her compatriot Florence Austral; the heroic element is missing. Nevertheless, there is enough to enjoy here to make these discs a worthwhile purchase. Great care has been taken with the presentation. Richard Bonynge conducts the superb London Symphony Orchestra effectively (and also plays the piano accompaniment for some songs) and the notes by Andrew Porter, reprinted from the original LP set, are most interesting. No texts are provided.
– Richard Gate


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Dancing Shadows
Bridget Bolliger: Flute
Andrew West: Piano
Cala Records Ltd CACD77019
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Miriam Hyde is the one of the biggest names of Australian music history who was not only a composer but a teacher, performer, recitalist, lecturer and examiner for AMEB (Australian Music Examinations Board). Dancing Shadows captures her poetic vision and her ability to create almost tangible settings in the listener’s mind. This album is unquestioningly magical; there is always something new to discover each time it is heard. It almost feels like Hyde had the intention to share personal memories with the audience, particularly in Wedding Morn, which opens with sweetness and simplicity and gradually moves into an array of darker notes. Perhaps it depicts her loneliness during the separation when her husband became a prisoner of war during World War II. Bolliger plays with such clarity and exquisiteness, she captures the tiniest details that Hyde herself embedded in the pastoral-like pieces. The playfulness, lively and sweet romantic tunes of the flute are accompanied by the subtle presence of West’s piano. If you love Debussy or Ravel you won’t be disappointed with this album. Although passion is not a key point, the impressionistic and dream-like style of the pieces compromises for its lack thereof. As a listener you can feel even from the first note that Hyde had a deep appreciation of the natural environment and the beauty of life’s simplest gifts. This album has done Hyde great justice with elevating the rich harmonies and every nuance in the melody. It is a work of pure storytelling.
– Leslie Khang


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Flute Vox
Laura Chislett – Flute
Stephanie McCallum – piano
Thomas Jones – violin
Independently released
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If this double CD is any indication, flautists have a wealth of quality contemporary pieces to play – of which I’ll mention a few… Toru Takemitsu’s Voice (1971) is a sterling opener. Bartolozzi’s explorations of multiphonics revolutionised what was possible with the flute but for all the modernity of technique, the irony is that Voice reflects the centuriesold traditions of Japan. Keys are zapped for a tuned percussive effect; vocalisations and a microtonal flute transform the performer into a one-woman Noh theatre. The breathy attack on some notes and microtonal ‘bending’ on others call to mind the shakuhachi (bamboo flute). Brett Dean – one of the best things to happen to Australian composition in the last two decades – is represented by Demons which traverses a profusion of ideas and sustained energy in just seven minutes. A life often lived in rural England has facilitated Edward Cowie’s unique career-path as composer, ornithologist and painter. One of the products of 12 years spent in this country is his A Charm of Australian Finches. An antipodean addition to the catalogue of Messiaen? Wedding Suite of Elena Kats-Chernin was written for the nuptials of Laura Chislett and violinist (and lawyer) Thomas Jones. With folkloric elements, it’s one of the more traditionally melodic works here. And, her Blue Silence is meant to evoke calmness and healing for sufferers of
schizophrenia. Rounding out the recital are the Four Episodes for solo piano (2010) by Brisbane-born Gerald Glynn. As befits a man who has lived in Paris since 1967, the music is urbane and cosmopolitan – and eloquently played. These two musicians made their first album together 20 years ago; I sincerely hope we don’t have to wait as long for the next.
– Michael Muir


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