Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"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.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Timeless stones come alive

Photo by MarkusMark, published under a Creative Commons license.
The magnificent Duomo di Milan, the Milan Cathedral, was originally a gothic cathedral built atop an early Christian basilica which was itself built atop a Roman temple, and it's been tinkered with ever since. It's the site of a marvellous new production of Rossini's "sacred melodrama", Mosè, which has been packaged into an equally marvellous Blu-ray disc.

There's plenty of impressive music in this piece; its surprising how it can sparkle like the Barber of Seville and yet provide a full measure of drama and piety. In this production so much of the credit goes to conductor Francesco Quattrocchi, who has the enormous challenge of providing a cogent orchestral sound in such a huge volume as the interior of this massive church. It's the largest church in Italy, the fifth largest in the world. The singers are led by the great Ruggero Raimondi, but this is more an ensemble piece than a star vehicle. There are no weak links amongst the principal singers, though the acting in this semi-staged version set within a huge space is necessarily broad, to reach the audience as well as the HD cameras. The chorus is equally important, and comes through with flying colours. In the end we rely on Quattrocchi to marshall all of these resources - the fine solo singers and the excellent Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Malano Orchestra and Chorus - while keeping them all in balance, acoustically, dramatically, and musically.

We come now to the thing that makes this really special: the production treats the Duomo interior, which somehow seems super-opulent while also being super-austere, as a giant stage set, and the new technology of video mapping, or projection mapping, turns the Duomo into a dynamic space that opens up the story. The timeless stones come alive and help to tell the story. This is the second time in the last couple of weeks I've ended up talking about new technologies when reviewing a new classical music disc; I love it!

This YouTube clip gives you only a hint of an idea of how impressive this is on a large HD screen with good 5.1 surround sound. For the full effect you'll have to buy the disc and see for yourself!

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