Mstation Classical Reviews

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Mon, 30 Oct 2006

Von Otter

I let the music speak
Anne Sofie von Otter
(Benny Andersson/BjŅrn Ulvaeus/Tim Rice/Mats Nörklit)
CD, Deutsche Grammophon

This is my first experience of Anne Sofie, and to begin with I was completely lost on the style of her voice. Obviously an accomplished singer, I did enjoy listening to her singing, and it wasn’t long before I wanted to hear the other albums she has done (mentioned in the back cover). The music of Benny Andersson is known around the world most significantly with ABBA, and here, Anne Sofie realises an ambition to sing his works after seeing the musical DuvemĆla.

Her interpretation of The Winner Takes It All is excellent. Being an emotionally wrenching song in its own right, Anne Sofie draws on her own passion and in this arrangement it works beautifully; simply done, but not lacking in any warmth or love. Also Butterfly Wings, The Day before you Came, I’m Just a Girl, and the two songs from Kristina frĆn DuvemĆla. I appreciate the Jazz influences on this music. Maybe I’ll learn Swedish one day!

Well worth getting this album, so enjoy! (E Walton)

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Der Rosenkavalier

Richard Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier
Wiener Staatsoperchor
Wiener Philharmoniker
Semyon Bychov
Robert Carsen, Brian Large

This is from the Salzburg Festspiele of 2004 and is a very good example of Strauss staging and performance. It is interesting that Strauss doesn't generally attract directors who wish to make anachronistic versions to show their own senses of irony and with-itness... thankfully. Some of them seem a little like the management of the V & A museum in London who's mission largely seems to be to destroy the Victorian grace of the place in a misguided attempt to be cool. And of course, now is now, and next week it is last week and so it becomes rather silly.

Stagers of operas have better excuses though. What is created lasts only for the season and audiences, who have seen most of the repertoire before, like an occasional shock.

There are no shocks here however. It is a nicely done rendition that will give Strauss fans a pleasant 201 minutes. (Baron K)

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Schubert – Death and the Maiden

Schubert – Death and the Maiden
Takács Quartet
Edward Dusinberre, Károly Schranz, Geraldine Walther, András Fejér
CD, Hyperion

An excellent opening presents us with a confident and passionate display of musical artistry. Precise timing gives a clean cut to the phrasing; crucial to the start of this famous work. World over this music demands technical mastery from all who play it; taking no prisoners, those whose power and demands of their instrument are not 100% should use this as a tool to draw from within.

The second movement does not shy away from the demands. The opening line seeming to last forever, the players must sing this music as if it would never end. The whole movement is like this, but Takács provide us with a breathless, yet perfectly comfortable phrase. Un-hurried in the middle section, the change of heart but not phrasing style, is portrayed beautifully. And moving towards the minor and the end of the movement, the stillness is undisturbed by the first violin, building to a triumphantly quiet end.

The ever famous ‘scherzo’ and the finale are both very clear, and well balanced. I congratulate all the players for superb performance of this quartet (14) and the earlier (13), played next on the CD. It is well worth the investment to hear this fabulous sound, one I feel perfect for Schubert. (E Walton)

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American Classics - Aaron Copland
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Joann Falletta
CD, Naxos

Founded in 1935, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has performed great works throughout its lengthy career. Here, under the direction of JoAnn Falletta; one of the greatest conductors of her time, the orchestra produce a landscape beneath your feet with precise percussion and wind, and warm, energetic string and brass sections.

Opening with Prairie Journal, we are immediately presented with a hive of activity. The music resonates with Copland to the core, opening up a whole world in front of your eyes; referred to as "Copland's out-doorsy cachet" (E. Yadzinski). (The piece was renamed after a competition held in America for the public to write sub-titles to the music. The winning entry was entitled Saga of the Prairie.)

We move on to Rodeo (Four Dance Episodes - 1942). Filled with contrasting colours and themes, it reminds me of the writing style of a composer friend of mine. A mixture of excitable, reminiscent, dancing, and expansive themes offers a great range of emotions and listening material. The ever popular Hoe Down completes these four episodes for a very enjoyable 18 minutes of listening.

Letter From Home is beautifully performed. Copland writes very sentimentally and nostalgically in this work. Using a common theme throughout, his orchestration is both unusual and typical, particularly his use of dissonant harmonies showing his happiness in developing his harmonic style. Copland's words say it best;

"It's very sentimental, but not meant to be taken too literally - I meant only to convey the emotion that might be naturally awakened in the recipient by reading a letter from home."

The Red Pony - Film Music suite (1948) is Copland showing his roots. Taken from Copland's own score of the film of Steinbeck's novel of the same name, this suite was aimed at children, a suggestion by Copland himself; it uses folk-like themes as all are original and offers great emotional variety, which is portrayed by the Buffalo Philharmonic exceptionally well. They really are amongst the greatest orchestras of our time, conducted by one the great conductors of our time.

This is an excellent musical education on American music without even realising you're learning. (E Walton)

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