Friday, January 25, 2013

Awards 2012 - Opera

Joplin: Treemonisha
Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and Singers/Rick Benjamin
New World

"Imagine a parallel universe where the greatest democracy on earth had thought better than to legislate against a fifth of its own people because of their skin colour. Living in Utopia might have allowed Scott Joplin to transcend his typecasting as 'The Ragtime King'; and just perhaps his 1911 opera Treemonisha might have been cut the understanding and respect it clearly deserves; and perhaps a new recording would have been unnecessary... This is the most important document about the history of American composed music to have appeared in a long, long time." - Philip Clark, Gramophone.
"Benjamin aims to replicate the smaller theater pit-band aesthetic with which Joplin was familiar, aided by surviving Joplin orchestrations, plus instrumentation guide books relevant to the era and milieu. The music takes on a completely different complexion with a 12-piece ensemble that features one instrument to a part, including cornets instead of trumpets, and percussion instruments of the period. Moreover, the swifter, lighter instrumental textures liberate Joplin’s gorgeous vocal lines, imparting a conversational rather than histrionic quality that befits both the musical style and the still-relevant moral of Joplin's self-penned libretto of how education, rather than superstition, provides a pathway out of poverty." - Jed Distler, Classics Today.

Shostakovich: Orango - Prologue; Symphony no.4. Los Angeles Philharmonic/Esa-Pekka Salonen [DG]
Donizetti: Maria di Rohan. Krassimira Stoyanova et al; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Mark Elder [Opera Rara]
Mozart: Apollo et Hyacinthus. Lawrence Zazzo et al; Classical Opera/Ian Page [Linn]
Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer. Albert Dohmen et al; Berlin RSO/Marek Janowski [Pentatone]

An unusual winner, perhaps, but that's part of the fun of the Nereffid's Guide Awards. 2010 and 2011 winning conductor Mark Elder is a runner-up this year (and his Hallé "Die Walküre" just missed the cut too). Marek Janowski's Dutchman proved to be the best-reviewed of his four Wagner releases under consideration ("Lohengrin", "Meistersinger", and "Parsifal" were the others).

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