Presto News - 26th May 2008
Superb Scholl sings Dowland and his circle
In the last fifty years or so, the countertenor voice has had something of a resurgence in popularity. This was partly due to early pioneers like Alfred Deller, but also I suspect because of the increasing preference of using a male countertenor voice (rather than a female contralto voice) for the many Baroque opera roles originally written for castrati.
These days there are a good handful of really fine countertenors around, all with slightly different qualities giving them all slightly different individual characteristics, but very near the very top of the tree must be Andreas Scholl. His range is the same as the great 18th century castrato Senesino (for whom Handel created many of his greatest alto roles), and he has sung and recorded many of these roles to great critical acclaim. In 2005, he became the first countertenor ever to sing solo at The Last Night of the Proms.
For his latest disc Scholl has chosen a sampling of lute and consort songs by the great Elizabethan “poet of melancholy”, John Dowland. His music forms the bulk of the disc, which also features some of Dowland’s contemporaries, such as William Byrd and Robert Johnson. Scholl is accompanied by the surperb lutenist Julian Behr and the Swiss-based viol quartet, Concerto di Viole, and together they provide a rich and varied accompaniment for Scholl’s exquisite voice.
I have to admit I’m not normally a big fan of solo countertenor discs, but since I first heard this I’ve been hooked. We’ve also managed to secure one of Scholl’s biggest selling discs of all time as this week’s Harmonia Mundi Golden Disc so now is most definitely the time to top up your collection of countertenor discs!
And on the subject of Harmonia Mundi we also have a few hundred free new release samplers to give away. It contains over an hour of music drawn from the rich and wonderful array of discs that Harmonia Mundi have brought us so far this year, so amongst others you’ll find Paul Lewis, Matthias Goerne and Richard Egarr. If you’d like one, then next time you place an order please email me with your order number and I’ll make sure one gets included in the parcel. (First come, first served!)
Crystal Tears - John Dowland & his contemporaries
Andreas Scholl (countertenor)
Chris O'Reilly - firstname.lastname@example.org
26th May 2008
Martinu - Violin Concerto No. 2 (and other works)
Isabelle Faust (violin) & Cedric Tiberghien (piano), The Prague Philharmonia, Jirí Belohlávek
Long overshadowed by the reputation of his Bohemian compatriots Smetana, Dvorák and Janácek, Bohuslav Martinu is at last enjoying his fair share of the limelight.The three works presented on this recording display the Czech composer's endless creativity within the framework of a vivid concertante language.
Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D major 'Titan'
London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
Valery Gergiev follows his critically acclaimed recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 6 with an equally intense performance of the First Symphony. Gergiev's second LSO Live release was recorded in London during January as part of his ongoing Mahler cycle. Although he has established a formidable reputation as one of the leading interpreters of Mahler's works in concert, these LSO Live releases are the first time that Gergiev has recorded the composer's music.
Monteverdi - Primo libro & nono libro dei madrigali
La Venexiana, Claudio Cavina
To complete their masterful Monteverdi Edition, Claudio Cavina and La Venexiana start at the beginning - the Madrigali a cinque voci… Book One. Monteverdi's exploration of the madrigal art form, was to occupy the composer for more than 50 years.
In approaching the Libro primo, published in 1587 when the composer was barely 20 years old yet demonstrably showing clear evidence of his approaching maturity, La Venexiana's performances are faithful to Monteverdi's passion for the written word, above all to the weighty theme of love.
In this final release in the Monteverdi Edition Cavina adds a twist in the tail by including on this new CD the madrigals from the posthumous Book nine put together by the composer's Venetian publisher.
Schoenberg - Complete String Quartets
Juilliard String Quartet
Founded by the composer Robert Mann following the inspiration of William Schuman, the Juilliard Quartet, made up entirely of professors from the renowned New York school, was to take centre stage in the history of 20th century musical creativity. The first concert was given on 10th December 1946 before an audience that included Yehudi Menuhin and Zoltán Kodály.
In 1950, the Juilliard Quartet performed Schoenberg's String Quartets in the presence of the composer himself. "Our interpretation was wilder than Schoenberg had expected", explained Mann "and when we played the first quartet for him he declared that it was a way of interpreting it that he had not imagined. We were stunned. Schoenberg burst out laughing and added: 'But play it that way, it's good!'".
Sean O'Boyle - Concerto for Didgeridoo
William Barton (didgeridoo), The Queensland Orchestra, Sean O'Boyle
Two world premiere recordings are presented in this new CD from Australian composer Sean O'Boyle. The pieces take listeners on a spiritual journey through the unique Australian landscape, expressing its forms and life in music. The Concerto for Didgeridoo was inspired by didgeridoo player William Barton, the soloist in this recording, who provided O'Boyle with the rhythms on which the piece is based.
Currently included in our ABC Classics Special Offer.
Messiaen - The Montaigne Recordings
Yvonne Loriod (piano), Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez, Asko Ensemble & Schönberg Ensemble, Reinbert de Leeuw
This 6 CD set is being released to mark the centenary of the birth of the great 20th century French composer Olivier Messiaen. The music on these discs was originally recorded between 1988 and 1991 and released on the label “Montaigne”. The selection of works included feature major works that cover the most significant period in Messiaen’s life as a composer.
Sibelius: Kullervo, Op. 7
Soile Isokoski (soprano) &Tommi Hakala (baritone), YL Male Voice Choir & Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Leif Segerstam
The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra has a long and triumphant association with the music of Jean Sibelius, having premièred under the composer's baton almost all of his symphonic works. This release completes the orchestra's acclaimed Sibelius Symphonies Cycle under Leif Segerstam which have become best-sellers in Ondine's catalogue.
15 new releases
After a change of distribution in the UK, this is the first batch of new releases since January.
This is a typically varied selection from the label with some great value re-issues licenced from other labels along with an increasing number of new issues recorded by the label themselves - all at fabulous prices!
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