Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rich and satisfying music for voice and orchestra

From February 11, 2015:


The three works on this disc have rich and intricately designed orchestral scores. Though all of the pieces have been adapted from earlier versions, each phrase and the instruments chosen to play it seems perfect and inevitable. That is the genius of the extraordinary Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, Quatre Instants and the suite taken from the opera Emilie both have important voice parts, of course, but Saariaho’s emphasis as always is on the transformation of sounds. She represents a series of the shifting moods and psychological drama of the 18th century scientist Emilie du Chatelet in the suite from Emilie, and a similar presentation takes place in the four songs that make up Quatre Instants. Terra Memoria takes transformation of memories as its theme, and the musical material (already transformed to a string orchestra from the original string quartet version) twists and turns into a surprisingly lucid kind of chaos. Marko Letonja brings out strong performances from the Strasbourg orchestral musicians. I took special note of the unnamed harpsichordist who plays an important part in the Emilie suite, embodying Enlightenment values as Emilie grapples with the universe. Soprano Karen Vourc’h is equally strong, though she has perhaps just slightly less character as Emilie than Karita Mattila, for whom the part was written.

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