Tag Archives: Vice Like Grip

Between Heaven and Earth

Sandrine Piau (soprano)

Accademia Bizantina

Stefano Montanari (conductor)

Naïve OP 30484Pau

reviewed by Neville Cohn

If you have not yet heard of Sandrine Piau before, I urge you to hurry to the nearest CD store to purchase a copy of this all-Handel compilation.

French-born Sandrine Piau is a sensationally fine soprano. Her singing doe not so much engage the attention as seize it in a vice-like grip. Much of the singing on this CD could fairly be described as electrifying; her singing inflames the imagination and quickens the pulse.

Listen to Disserratevi, o porte d’Averno from La Resurrezione and the brilliance with which she stamps her authority on the music. The suppleness and agility of her voice are phenomenal and she brings fearless attack and follow-through to the phrase.

Piau’s account of  With darkness deep from Theodora is given a deeply meaningful reading although the pronunciation of the English text is not always entirely convincing. An admirable ecstatic edge is brought to the singing of Rejoice greatly from Messiah.

In As steals the morn upon the night, Piau is joined by Australian-born, Paris-based  tenor Topi Lehtipuu; it’s a pleasing blend of vocal timbres.

Piau is hardly less convincing in Let the bright seraphim from Samson to which she brings immense authority and superb breath control. Luca Marzana’s trumpet obbligato is first rate, too.

There are a number of instrumental interludes of which I particularly admired the Largo from the Concerto Grosso opus 3 no 2, made memorable by Molly Walsh’s beautifully controlled oboe line. And even that most hackneyed of orchestral interludes – Arrival of the Queen of Sheba – sounds newly minted. Throughout, the accompaniments provided by Accademia Bizantina under the direction of Stefano Montanari are a model of period performance practice.




Lin Jiang (horn)

Benjamin Martin (piano)

TPT: 59’35”

Melba MR 301116

reviewed by Neville Cohn




Robert Schumann: Adagio and Allegro, opus 70:  Peter Maxwell Davies: Sea Eagle:

Gunter Schuller: Nocturne: Esa-Pekka Salonen: Horn Music: Francis Poulenc: Elegie: Marin Marais arr Brain: le Basque: Paul Hindemith: Sonata for alto horn and piano: J.S.Bach arr Hoss: Gigue from Suite No 3 for cello: Otto Ketting: Intrada: Thaddeus Huang: Encore, My Good Sir


Lin Jiang, Shanghai-born but resident in Australia since the age of 5, is a young man with a golden horn. And this fascinating compilation, much of it well off the beaten track, is musical treasure trove for those seeking horn rarities. There’s standard fare such as Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro and Poulenc’s Elegie which he wrote in memory of Dennis Brain.


Ketting’s Intrada does not so much attract the attention as seize it in a vice-like grip with its flawless fanfares and pure, warm tone.


Peter Maxwell Davies’ Sea Eagle, for unaccompanied horn, makes for fascinating listening, its first movement conjuring up images of a young eagle about to make its first solo flight, suggested by what might be thought of as a series of false starts which give way to a swooping motif. Sumptuous tone informs the Lento movement – and in the brief presto finale, Jiang gives us a joyful, even impudent utterance. Trills are near-perfectly spun here. In Schuller’s Nocturne, Jiang’s pure horn sound is complemented by Benjamin Martin’s gently lulling accompaniment at the keyboard.


There’s not a dull moment in Salonen’s Horn Music in which both musicians are kept very much on their toes. In turn lyrical and virtuosic, this is an important addition to the repertoire; it deserves to be widely heard. Marais’ Le Basque is a folksy delight.


The second movement of Hindemith’s Sonata reveals the composer in insouciant, impish mood, surely a refutation of the silly slander, often advanced, that he is a  chronic autumnal drear. Poulenc, on the other had, is too frequently, and wrongly, dismissed as little more than a lightweight with a sense of humour. Listen to his Elegie with its uncharacteristic dissonances and heavy-toned, funereal quality. This is Poulenc in serious vein – and both musicians are spot-on in their revelation of the music’s dark mood. Jiang and Martin do Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro proud; it’s a joy to hear, not least for the impeccable synchronisation of horn and piano. Martin’s contributions at the keyboard are unfailingly musicianly.


Thaddeus Huang’s Encore, My Good Sir is an eminently listenable, rather lightweight encore-type piece and very effective at that level.


This CD is highly recommended.