Friday, September 11, 2009

This week I listened to

Falla: El Amor Brujo; El Retablo de Maese Pedro; Fantasia bética
soloists; Orchestre Poitou-Charentes/Jean-Fran çois Heisser

I found this as part of my project to find good eMu versions of "basic" repertoire that I don't already have. I couldn't find a review of it, but the label's web site made it clear that the French press had showered it with praise, which is good enough for me. Then last month's BBC Building a Library chose this El Amor Brujo as the best. Neat coincidence. This has flamenco singer Antionia Contreras instead of the usual Victoria de los Angeles-style classical singer, which makes a big difference. I never actually knew what it's about: a gypsy girl tormented by the ghost of a former lover. El Retablo de Maese Pedro is a puppet-opera based on an episode from Don Quixote (there's a good article on it in Wikipedia) and uses an early-music idiom. The Fantasia bética is a piano piece, again with a strong Spanish flavour. All round, a very entertaining album.

Górecki: "Life journey"
Chamber Domaine

This was a little disappointing, in as much as the early works (from the 1950s) that take up much of the disc weren't quite as interesting as I'd hoped. Nothing too unpleasant or "modern", and repeated listening does pay off. But the 2 pieces that stood out were the first 2, both from the 1990s and more characteristic of the Górecki of the Third Symphony (although the Requiem certainly might surprise you with its loud and raucous moments, more like Shostakovich). Overall, though, the album is a useful survey of the composer's chamber music. The "polka" being requiem'd is not the dance, by the way; it means "Polish woman".

Herrmann: Vertigo (original soundtrack)
City of London Sinfonia/Muir Mathieson
Hollywood (out of copyright!)

This hardly needs recommendation, does it? Hurrah for the still-extant EU copyright laws: this one went public domain on January 1 of this year. Actually I'm not quite sure how legal this particular issue is, though. It's certainly the original recording, but the track listings match the RSNO/McNeely recording on Varese Sarabande, rather than the original 1958 album or the subsequent reissue, which included a lot of unreleased material. If the Hollywood label has copied the reissue, then they've breached copyright. Ah, who cares: the only ones being screwed would be Universal Music - boo hoo.

Britten: The Five Canticles; 3 Purcell realisations
Anthony Rolfe Johnson; Michael Chance; Alan Opie; Roger Vignoles et al
(bought on CD)

This is marvellous. The 5 Canticles were written between 1947 and 1974; although they don't form a cycle as such, they do fit well together. Four take their texts from poems (2 of them by T.S. Eliot) and the other (Abraham and Isaac) from the medieval Chester Miracle Plays. Each is a gem, especially the haunting Abraham and Isaac, which cleverly has the tenor and countertenor sing in unison to create the voice of God. As to why such an unpleasant biblical story should make such a beautiful piece of music is something I want to look at in another post. The disc is neatly rounded off with 3 of Britten's adaptations of Purcell - one for each of the 3 singers here. These manage to be distinctively Britten while still sounding like Purcell. The disc is as good an introduction to Britten's vocal music as any, I suppose.

No comments: