Oct 29

Schumann: The Secular Choral Works performed by Studio Vocale Karlsruhe ?????

A one time I never found much of interest in Schumann. Now that I’m re-listening to a number of his works, they are gaining a fascination. This album is no exception. The performances are charming and impeccable, very masterfully done. Each piece has its own delights, and provides for differing styles and types of works. This set is a budget set that consists of four CDs, and is a true bargain that will delight.

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Oct 29

Vaughn Williams Sacred Choral Music, performed by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge ??

These set of songs were adequately performed, but lacked brilliance and charm. It is typical of Vaughn Williams to have very predictable music, so that if one has heard one Vaughn Williams piece, you’ve heard them all. There is nothing about these choral pieces to excite the soul or transcend the realm of the ennui. I purchased this CD hoping to find in VW and British music some charm—but, British music, like British food, tends to be bland and uninteresting. The Brits have failed to produced good composers, outside of Purcell and the Beatles. The more I listen to VW, I realize that it is not a matter of missing something in the music that is subtle or complex, such as learning to appreciate the music of Wagner. The music of VW is just plain boring and uncreative.

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Oct 20

Glass String Quartets, performed by the Carducci Quartet ????

I am not a big fan of Philip Glass, but these quartets were quite appealing to me. True, they possessed a minimalist aspect to them, with much repetitive structures. In opera, minimalism creates boredom. It does just the opposite in the string quartets, creating a relaxed, meditative atmosphere. Yet, Glass maintains enough character to the overall flow of the pieces to lend character and distinction to each movement and each quartet. This made listening a joy rather than a matter of endurance. These quartets are a “must hear” for anybody who enjoys the whole panoply of classic music.

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Oct 20

Samuel Barber Piano Concerto, Prutsman, Royal Scottish National Orchestra ???

This and the next review focus on contemporary American composers. Samuel Barber is best known for Barber’s Adagio, popularized by Bernstein. This disc contains not only the Piano Concerto, but several other short works by Barber. The performance was technically adequate, but the pieces lacked an overall luster to them. Perhaps the performers didn’t have a chance? Barber seems to have a sense of non-direction to his music, being occasionally bombastic, occasionally quiet, but never leading anywhere. Fortunately, it was reasonably tonal and thus endured listening to. This is not exactly a disc that I’d encourage you to rush out and purchase.

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Oct 19

La Fille du Regiment, by Donizetti, starring Natalie Dessay ???

Donizetti was an extremely productive early 19th century Italian opera composer, though most of his works go unperformed at this time. His greatest works include this opera, as well as Lucia de Lammermoor, L’elixir d’Amore, Anna Bolena, and a few others. This is probably the poorest conceived of his better known operas, and best known with Joan Sutherland as the star daughter of the regiment. In this opera, Natalie Dessay is the star. Her vocal qualities do not compete with the excellence of Dame Joan, though her acting and overall operatic skills make her one of the better daughters to ever have filled this role. Thus, it was a delight and joy to watch. The staging was a cross between traditional and minimalist, and served as much as a distraction as a help to the overall flow of the opera. This is not one of my favorite operas. The music is not memorable, and the plot contrived. A baby girl (Marie) is picked up and raised by a French army regiment, but recovered by a rich Tyrolean couple who think that she is their long-lost daughter, and arrange a marriage for her though she is love with a Tyrolean Toni who she met in the regiment and who joined the French regiment in order to marry her. Eventually Tonio and Marie resolve the issues that hold them apart. Yawn! Ho-hum.

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