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State of grace

Ward Marston recently released a four-CD deluxe package of John McCormack’s lesser known Odeon recordings. These are not to be confused with his later, more well-known, and vocally revered discs he made on the Victor label. Recorded more than a century later, Lawrence Brownlee’s new album Virtuoso Rossini Arias demonstrate just how far the tenore di grazia has  come in the operatic world. The two albums are really useful bookends for each other.   Read more »

Low-fat Schoenberg

With orchestral and choral forces that could outnumber a small European village, Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder is a composition designed to overwhelm. The young composer was intent on cashing in on the pre-World War 1 fad for gigantism that spawned such works Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and on exploring a full palette of human emotions and natural wonders in a single evening. His fin-de-siècle oratorio deploys upward of 300 performers and contains a kitchen sink of effects, including trombone glissandi, percussion with chains and a surreal spoken “melodrama” about the transformative Nordic wind.   Read more »

Kraus purposes

Perhaps there are not that many people in the world who would look at a CD cover and think “Oh, goody, goody! A libretto by Eugène Scribe I’ve never come across before!” Scribe, a prolific creator of many forms of popular theatre in Paris, wrote the libretti for the most famous French grand operas but also produced works in many other genres. I knew I could expect a lot of variety, incident and entertainment from Ali Baba ou Les Quarante voleurs (“Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”) and I was not disappointed. Read more »

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Ladies in their sensitivities

As someone who thinks Verdi is the greatest composer who ever lived and who feels pretty meh about Mozart, I expected to love the Verdi and be bored by the Mozart. I wasn’t far wrong.

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Where the boys are

When Norman Lebrecht is declaring on an almost daily basis that classical music is dead, it’s perhaps heartening that four of today’s prominent tenors have recently released what might be called fluff/vanity albums.

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Sex please: we’re British

The finer performances of Tristan und Isolde have a way of sounding like a four-hour improvisation, the fruit of a single moment of inspiration that makes one forget how emotionally manipulative and painstakingly crafted the music really is.

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Farinelli from heaven

My impossible wish would be to hear one of the great castrati who dominated opera for most of the 18th century.

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Brass ring

Marek Janowski’s survey of Wagner operas on PentaTone so convincingly captures the pulse and dramatic flow of many of the works that the music-making at times sounds almost effortless.

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New faces

Mr. Ian Rosenblatt is a London solicitor and patron of charitable causes in Britain primarily focused on classical music.

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Habit, forming

I’ve always had a fondness for Giacomo Puccini’s Suor Angelica and apparently so did he since he often referred to it as, “among the finest of my children.”

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