Monthly Archives: October 2014

Cecilia Bartoli – St. Petersburg

I Barocchisti cond. Diego Fasolis

DECCA 478 6767

reviewed by Neville Cohn

In a sumptuous offering on the DECCA label, Cecilia Bartoli, prima donna assoluta, brings to us repertoire which until very recently had faded into just about total obscurity. It is fascinating fare, and its resurrection of the hitherto vanished and forgotten is thoroughly warranted, especially when
sung by one the great voices of the century.

BartoliHave you heard of Hermann Raupach or Francesco Domenico Araia – or Domenico Dall’oglio?

You haven’t? Well, here’s a rare opportunity to listen to some of the music of these gentlemen ­and presented by a phenomenal vocalist.

Bartoli, singing in Russian, is at her dazzling best in an aria from Raupach’s
Hercules. Busy, energetic strings with brass fanfare punctuations form the background against  which a flawless vocal line is traced, a performance that sets the pulse racing.

In El placido il mare, Bartoli’s singing is the vocal equivalent of super virtuoso pianist Vladimir Horowitz in this exultant, dramatic offering.

Who was Raupach? German­born, he once met Mozart and the two improvised at the harpsichord.

He also worked for years at the Imperial Russian Court in St Petersburg where he wrote no fewer  than 14 operas. He was a favourite of Tsarina Elizaveta Petrovna.

Another gem is the prelude to La clemenza di Tito – not the one by Mozart but Dall’oglio and Madonis. Gently reflective flute playing by Marco Brolli and Bartoli’s wondrous vocal ornamentation make musical gold of this.

As well, there’s an upbeat, emphatically rhythmical march in which I Barocchisti ensemble comes into its own.

Bartoli is joined by soprano Silvana Bazzoni and RSI radiotelevisione svizzera chorus in an all- stops­out, celebratory account of A noi vivi, donna eccelsa from Manfredini’s Carlo Magno

DECCA is on to a winner here. It’s not only the singing – which is beyond reproach – but the

overall presentation. The liner notes are in the form of a small hardcover book with many pages of fascinating music history as well as insights into the lives of three of Russia’s most formidable tsarinas. It’s lavishly illustrated, too.

If you purchase only one compact disc this year, then let it be this. It would make the perfect Xmas gift for anyone interested in vocal artistry at the very highest level.

Music of Benjamin Godard

Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Victor Sangiorgio (piano)/ Martin Yates (conductor)

CDLX 7274

TPT: 69’ 51”

reviewed by Neville Cohn


This fascinating compact disc offers three world premiere recordings, all by Benjamin Godard. And not before time. The other day, I did an impromptu poll asking numbers of concertgoers who Godard was. Very few had heard of him and fewer still could relate his name to any of his music, with two citing Berceuse de Jocelyn as the only work of his they could call to mind. More’s the pity because Godard was a prolific composer, producing, inter alia, eight operas (including Jocelyn), five symphonies and many songs.


SangiornoFor this unveiling for the first time on CD of Godard’s Piano Concerto No 1, it was an inspiration to engage Victor Sangiorgio to feature as soloist. From first note to last, he shapes to the demands of the work like fine French champagne to a goblet. Lightness of touch, fingers which know few fears and an ability to focus on fine detail without losing sight of the grand sweep of the concerto, make this recording a first rate listening experience, not least for Martin Yates’ masterly direction of an on-form Royal Scottish National Orchestra.


In the opening movement, the music oscillates between powerfully assertive, tonally muscular moments and introspective murmurings. Darting figurations and elfin flourishes delight the ear in the scherzo. And how lyrically Sangiorgio negotiates the third movement, its introspective measures gauged to a nicety. The finale with its rippling arabesques and emphatic rhythms holds the attention totally. Throughout, the soloist responds to the score with an impeccable sense of style.


While Godard’s Introduction and Allegro is perhaps of lesser quality than the concerto, it is presented with such high musicianship that, at least for the duration of the piece, the music sounds rather better than it, in fact, is. It’s musical persuasion at its most eloquent. The Allegro is musical froth and bubble that doesn’t carry any grand message but prattles engagingly on.



Music Composed in Concentration Camps

Francesco Lotoro (piano) and friends

reviewed by Neville Cohn

Francesco Lotoro, that tireless collector of music composed in prison (primarily concentration camp) environments, features prominently here in the role of both solo pianist and accompanist.


Rudolf Karel will not be widely known as composer so it is thanks to the dedication of Lotoro that works such as Karel’s Nonet opus 43 are recorded here. It’s in the form of a reconstructed piano score.

Karel studied both music and law in what is now the Czech Republic. He happened to be holidaying in Stavropol in Russia when World War I broke out and he was arrested on suspicion of being an Austrian spy – but he managed to escape.

Later, back in Prague, Karel taught at the city’s Conservatorium but during World War II he was arrested again, this time by the Gestapo. He continued to compose in prison and a friendly warder supplied him with sheets of toilet paper stuck one on top of the other to enable them to be written on and these compositions were smuggled out of the camp. He died in Theresienstadt.

In this piano version, the outer movements of Karel’s Nonet are played with immense authority by Lotoro whose performance makes for riveting listening. The movements come across as utterances of hand-wringing anguish, a barely contained hysteria. It is disturbing, at times menacing, music – and this interpretation is in the most positive sense, remarkable. It reaches out and seizes the attention in a vice-like grip.

Music by French composer Emil Goue makes up the rest of the CD. Goue taught physics at a grammar school in Bordeaux. He also studied composition with Koechlin and Roussel. For much of the war, Goue was a POW in oflag Nienburg am Weser, a prison camp for army officers in Lower Saxony, Germany where he worked tirelessly.

Lotoro’s account of the Prelude, Choral and Fugue holds the attention throughout. Note clusters in the Choral call the music of Messiaen to mind – and in the Fugue, Lotoro brings fluency and accuracy to give point and meaning to its contrapuntal intricacies.

In Goue’s Prelude, Aria and Finale, the first movement opens with dramatic, confrontational, arresting measures before giving way to much more introspective moments. There is an intense, introverted quality to the Aria – and stark, stabbing figurations are a feature of the Finale.

In three songs by Goue, Lotoro is a first rate accompanist to soprano Libera Granatiero’s singing. In selections which, for the most part, focus on melancholy, Granatiero’s interpretative skills are well to the fore, the overall impression enhanced by quite beautifully conceived accompaniments played by Lotoro.

Goue made it back home to Paris after the war but died tragically soon thereafter from an illness contracted in prison camp.

Tinalley String Quartet

String Quartets opus 20 nos. 4, 1 & 3 (Haydn)

reviewed by Neville Cohn

Although recorded back in 2011, this compilation of Haydn String Quartets from opus 20 has only been released now in 2014. It’s been well worth the wait.

From first note to last, the four musicians hit all the right buttons. Banff, in Canada, was the scene for one of the Tinalley players’ best moments – and if the quality which informs this compilation is anything to go by and the ensemble maintains its sharp focus on what it plays – the Tinalley musicians could well be on a fast track to international success.

Michelle Wood coaxes a warm-toned stream of finely fashioned sound from her cello, profoundly expressive but always within the line and contour of good taste. But it is perhaps invidious to single out any one player because all four are clearly as one in revealing the essence of whatever they essay. It’s a rare pleasure to listen to playing that is so committed to musicianship at its highest.

The gypsy minuet movement of the Quartet number 4 in D is informed by an engaging bucolic quality. It’s presented with an appealing freshness. And the finale, a little gem of scurrying insouciance, makes the finale a delight.

One of the spin offs for the Tinalley Quartet as winner of the 9th Banff International String Quartet Competition was the opportunity to make a compact disc recording – and this is it. The sheer professionalism brought to bear on this recording is unambiguous evidence that the Tinalley players are worthy winners of the prize.