CDs/DVDs July 2020

Verdi: Simon Boccanegra
Salzburg Festival, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
UNITEL 802608

A darkly effective modern-dress production by Andreas Kriegenburg brings out clearly the political undertones of the narrative as well as within Verdi’s score. The production sits uncomfortably somewhere between the fascist right and the communist left so that all we are really aware of is the possibility of corruption and the way it affects personal relationships. A fine approach which works well even if it is not a comfortable watch.


Mahler: Symphony No2 Resurrection
Munich Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel
UNITEL 802808

This live recording – and a splendid one it is with all the joy and enthusiasm Gustavo Dudamel brings to his music-making – was made in one of the strangest concert halls I have come across. The Palau de la Musica Catalana was completed in 1908 and is a cross between a vastly ornate Catholic cathedral and a greenhouse. The roof and side walls, all normally impenetrably dense, are here made of glass with the finest stained-glass panels alongside walls liberally decorated with mosaics and sculptures. It almost dwarfs Mahler’s score, though thankfully Dudamel’s wonderful ability to mould extensive passages into sinuous wholes, and superb playing from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra go a long way to help. Given the strange design, the choir are floated way above the orchestra – rather like having them in the gallery of the RAH. It is a marvellous experience and comes across remarkably well here.


Puccini: Il Tabarro
Maggio Musicale, Valerio Galli

As I have noted often before I am a great enthusiast for Il Tabarro and this is one of the finest recordings musically I can recall. Angelo Villari’s heroic tenor as Luigi is magnificent and superbly partnered by Maria Jose Siri as Giorgietta and Franco Vassallo as Michele. Denis Krief’s design is obviously intended for all three parts of Puccini’s trilogy so is only partly successful and often lacks atmosphere where most needed. This said the music is so good it is easy to forgive the visual impact to be swept away by the drama.

There are a number of links on YouTube to Angelo Villari’s performances and they are all worth listening to even when the productions are somewhat dubious. His Nessun dorma is glorious.


Offenbach: Orpheus in the Underworld
Salzburg Festival, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Enrique Mazzola
UNITEL 803008

A strange somewhat frenetic approach to a work which can disappear if too heavily handled. The dialogue is spoken on stage by an actor taking all the parts while the characters mime to his voice. This has a strangely disconcerting effect, particularly on the DVD where the words are clearly not coming from the singer in close-up. The score is hard driven throughout and while some of the ideas work well – the dancing is amusing and the setting effective – the overall effect lacks subtlety and nuance which is surely the essence of Offenbach.


Opere della ‘Musica Degenerata’
Orchestra Abima, Civica Orchestra di Fiati G Verdi, Davide Casali
TACTUS TC 900005


Debussy: Claire de lune and other works
Ilia Kim, piano

A challenging collection which places very familiar pieces alongside those in which the composer seems to be moving way ahead into the twentieth century. The Deux Arabesques, Claire de lune and La Cathedrale engloutie need no introduction but I was struck by both the Soiree dans Grenade and Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest the latter of which moves us into highly emotive seemingly improvised passages. Throughout Ilia Kim brings a strenuous confidence to her playing which is entirely convincing.

Bach: Cello Suites 1
Jeffrey McFadden, guitar
NAXOS 8.573625

Cello Suites 1, 2 & 3 arranged for guitar and here played with obvious enthusiasm and delight. While not having the nuance of the original it certainly conveys the joy of the works themselves and is able to communicate the varying moods of the original.


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