The Temple Church Boys’ Choir/Sayer(Orchid Classics)
Hot on the heels of last month’s music for upper voices recording from St Catharine’s, Cambridge comes another selection – from Roger Sayer’s trebles at the Temple Church, London. The presence of its famous boy soprano Ernest Lough is never far away from this music, particularly when soloist Ebube Chiana is singing; surely a boy with a bright future. Sayer knows that children expected to master complicated pieces of liturgical music also need to let off steam, so in addition to Britten’s Missa Brevis in D and the great Ceremony of Carols, both sung with admirable precision and classy musicianship, he guides them through Richard Rodney Bennett’s buzzing The Insect World, folk song arrangements and – appropriately for a choir based in the heart of the capital – Hubert Gregg’s Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner.
Boy trebles have a limited lifespan, and need to be captured at their peak, but they have a unique appeal. Voices break earlier today than they did in the baroque period, which makes the achievement of 13-year-old Norwegian Aksel Rykkvin in demanding repertory all the more remarkable. This disc is packed full of confident, musical singing, though not always impeccable in intonation. Apart from the ambiguity of having Cherubino’s arias sung by a real boy rather than a girl playing a boy, the pungent style in the Handel arias, also written for women, seems to be copied from the early-music sopranos of today, which gives the disc a rather postmodern feel.
The Orlando Consort(Hyperion)
This is the Orlando Consort’s third recording of unaccompanied songs by Guillaume de Machaut (c1300-77). The idealised pains and pleasures of courtly love are captured with haunting intensity, variously melismatic, rhythmically playful and full of conundrums and puzzles, sensed but hardly understood by a modern listener. In the mysterious Cinc, un, trese, numbers are used to spell out a name, sung with cool precision by Matthew Vennercorrect (countertenor) and Angus Smith (tenor). Donald Greig (baritone) is a steadily burning lover, devoted to his hopeless cause, in the solo Tuit me penser. Mark Dobell (tenor) opens the disc with Hé, dame de vaillance, dying of love for want of a glance from his grey-eyed lady. All sing exquisitely.
Bryanston, Dorset; Opera Holland Park, LondonDorset Opera and Opera Holland Park both work wonders on a shoestring with top-notch Tchaikovsky
In Tchaikovsky’s two operatic masterpieces, Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades, love curdles, hope is shattered, fate wins. By contrast, the love affair between British opera fans and these works, Onegin especially, is long and constant. Were the music not so passionate, the emotions so febrile, the drama so intense, you might call it cosy. Productions tend to be outstanding – Graham Vick’s frequently revived Onegin at Glyndebourne (1994) set the bar; Garsington won praise for its staging in June. Last week, Dorset Opera and Opera Holland Park added their own fine Tchaikovsky endeavours, impressive and rewarding in each case. How on earth those involved transmute their energies, not to mention their tiny budgets, into such high-carat splendour is anyone’s guess.
Dorset Opera, going from strength to strength, falls outside the usual summer festival jamboree. Picnics in idyllic grounds, yes. Formality and black-tie, no. Founded by a local woodwind teacher and conductor, Patrick Shelley, in 1974, it is now run by the expansive, problem-solving Roderick Kennedy, a former bass at opera houses around the world. The company moved in 2011 from squashed premises at Sherborne school (“Memphis is on the left and Thebes is on the right. I leave the rest to you”, was the alleged stage direction for Aida) to Bryanston’s more spacious theatre. Essentially a summer school, it is a perfect union of high professionalism and community effort.
Snape Maltings, AldeburghThe NYO and Edward Gardner paid homage to Einstein and the cosmos in a programme that was graceful and evocative
The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain sets its sights high and in this programme, conceived on a cosmic scale, it took the Snape Proms audience on a space odyssey. Accepting that Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra will never shake off the associations acquired through Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001 and the lunar pioneers, the NYO and conductor Edward Gardner set it alongside Gustav Holst’s The Planets. In both works, the 160-plus forces achieved a depth and richness of sound that belied their youth. There was never such a good night to be a tuba player or a double bassist.
Out of Strauss’s initial epic monumentality came grace and verve; leader Millie Ashton delivering the questing solo violin lines. Following a glowingly dynamic account of the Holst, Gardner went on to argue the strongest possible case for Colin Matthews’s Pluto, written for the millennium. Growing out of mystic Neptune’s dying notes – sung by the girls of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra youth choir – the feeling here was of an implicit and organic connection with the original suite. Moreover, the shimmering solar winds of Pluto took the ear back, orbit completed, to the work specially commissioned to launch the evening.
Australian Chamber Orchestra | Dutilleux At The Proms | A Midsummer Night’s Dream | Manfred | BBC National Orchestra Of Wales
There should be a memorable start to the Edinburgh international festival’s series of Queen’s Hall morning recitals, as what is probably the greatest chamber orchestra around today plays Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and the chamber arrangement of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde.
Fairies queuing at the canteen and Mechanicals performing their magic … here’s a look at how the Glyndebourne festival has tackled the Benjamin Britten opera, from Peter Hall’s 1981 production to current rehearsals of its latest revival, which will debut on 11 August
Espada/Redmond/Fumagalli/Ghislieri Choir and Consort/Prandi (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi)
At the end of 1706, the 21-year-old Handel arrived in Rome from Germany and immediately started making a stir in the wider musical world. The three vocal and choral works chosen by Giulio Prandi and his Pavia-based Ghislieri Consort, all recorded live in concert, date from the ensuing 12 months. Dixit Dominus sounds spirited and shapely, if not ideally pointed; the higher choral voices especially seem far back in the mix. British soprano Rachel Redmond impresses among a mixed bag of soloists. Handel geeks will be more excited by the two relatively unfamiliar cantatas. Ah Che Troppo Ineguali comprises a recitative and long aria, sung with poise by the soprano Maria Espada. Donna, Che in Ciel is more substantial, and we can hear Handel’s confidence and originality in arias such as Sorge Pure dall’Orrido Averno, which has unison strings overlapping with and anticipating the vocal melody, playing with our expectations.
Pailthorpe/BBCSO/Brabbins (Champs Hill)
Oboist Emily Pailthorpe has put together an intriguing programme from the limited repertoire available. She begins with a lusciously long-breathed account of Strauss’s late concerto, then makes lyrical work of Samuel Barber’s valedictory Canzonetta, both backed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Martyn Brabbins. The disc takes its name from Richard Blackford’s oboe concerto The Better Angels of Our Nature, written for Pailthorpe in 2013. Fifteen minutes long, it is initially evocative of mid-20th-century Americana, then has at its fulcrum a haunting rendition of Taps, the military bugle call played at sunset or a funeral. The music that follows this is melancholy, yet ultimately consoling, and though the downbeat ending is almost anticlimactic, Pailthorpe and Brabbins make it work. In between come Barber’s Summer Music and Janácek’s Mládí (Youth), in which Pailthorpe is not strictly in the spotlight, but is a distinctive voice leading a stylish chamber ensemble of BBCSO principals.
Plawner/Kammersymphonie Berlin/Bruns (Naxos)
There are four rewarding works to be discovered on this disc, although only two of them are technically concertos, and only one isn’t blink-and-you’ll-miss-it short. That’s the Violin Concerto by Andrzej Panufnik, written in 1971 and recorded in concert in 2014 by Lódz-born violinist Piotr Plawner, the Kammersymphonie Berlin and conductor Jürgen Bruns. The second movement, with its seemingly endless lines of melody, reminds us that the concerto was written for Yehudi Menuhin and his famous nonstop vibrato. Plawner does those long lines justice here, before wrapping up the piece in a spiky, frenetic Polish dance. We also get studio recordings of the sparky 12-minute concerto that Grazyna Bacewicz wrote for herself to perform, plus Alexandre Tansman’s compact Cinq Pièces pour Violon et Petit Orchestre, which aren’t a million miles away from Stravinsky in neoclassical mode, and the haunting, then punchy Andante and Allegro by Michal Spisak.
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