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Robert Levine Posted: Jan 28, 2015 Published: Feb 01, 2015 0 comments
Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Greer Grimsley, Wotan; Alwyn Mellor, Brünnhilde; Stefan Vinke, Siegfried; Stuart Skelton, Siegmund; Stephanie Blythe, Fricka, Waltraute; Margaret Jane Wray, Sieglinde; Richard Paul Fink, Alberich; Dennis Petersen, Mime; Wendy Bryn Hammer, Freia, Gutrune; Daniel Sumegi, Fafner, Hagen; Andrea Silvestrelli, Fasolt, Hunding; Markus Brück, Gunther; Mark Schowalter, Loge; others; Seattle Symphony Orchestra & Seattle Opera Chorus, Asher Fisch
Avie AV2313 (14 CDs). 2014. Evans Mirageas, prod.; Rick Fisher, mastering. DDD. TT: 14:35:33
Performance ****
Sonics ****

Judging from the pictures in the booklet accompanying these 14 CDs, Seattle's "green" Ring was quite beautiful. What we have to go by is audio only, but even without the visuals, it's very impressive.

Is there a movement toward de-monumentalizing the Ring? The Frankfurt Opera's (on Oehms), recently released on CDs and DVDs (different performances), is similar: the accent is on the behavior and interactions of those who inhabit the world of the Ring. The orchestral emphases are on transparency, not bombast.

Robert Levine Posted: Dec 15, 2015 Published: Jan 01, 2016 0 comments
Verdi: Aida
Anja Harteros, Aida; Eleonora Buratto, High Priestess; Jonas Kaufmann, Radames; Ekaterina Semenchuk, Amneris; Ludovic Tézier, Amonasro; Erwin Schrott, Ramfis; Marco Spotti, The King; Chorus & Orchestra of Santa Cecilia Academy Rome, Sir Antonio Pappano
Warner Classics 0825646106639 (3 CDs). 2015. Stephen Johns, prod.; Luca Padovano, Giancarlo Ianucci, Claudio Emili, Marco Emili, engs. DDD. TT: 2:26:45
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

It has been a long time since we've had a big-budget, studio recording of Aida; in fact, the last was from 2001, and it was awful—conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt's attempt to present an intimate (read: "miniaturized") reading of the score, a sort of period-instrument approach with small-voiced singers. In all, Aida has been taken on nearly 30 studio outings (the first was in 1928), and there are "private" and video versions. This is one of the best, with what might arguably be the finest cast one can assemble today.

Robert Levine Posted: Jul 27, 1999 0 comments
MOZART: Così fan tutte
Véronique Gens, Fiordiligi; Bernarda Fink, Dorabella; Werner Güra, Ferrando; Marcel Boone, Guglielmo; Pietro Spagnoli; Graciela Oddone, Despina; Kölner Kammerchor, Concerto Köln, René Jacobs
Harmonia Mundi 951663.65 (3 CDs). 1999. Barbara Valentin, artistic dir.; Mark Hohn, eng. DDD. TT: 3:21:09
Performance *****
Sonics *****
Robert Levine Posted: Jul 13, 2003 0 comments
VIVALDI: La Stravaganza
12 Violin Concertos, Op.4
Rachel Podger, violin; Arte dei Suonatori
Channel Classics CCS 19598 (2 CDs). 2003. Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, prod.; C. Jared Sacks, eng. DDD. TT: 102:59
Performance *****
Sonics *****
Robert Levine Posted: Jul 16, 2006 0 comments
MAHLER: Symphony 8
Barbara Kubiak, Izabela Klosinska, Marta Boberska, sopranos; Jadwiga Rappé, Ewa Marciniec, altos; Timothy Bentch, tenor; Wojtek Drabowicz, baritone; Piotr Nowacki, bass; Warsaw National Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra, Polish Radio Choir in Krakow, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University Choir, Warsaw Boys Choir; Antoni Wit, conductor
Naxos 8.550533-34 (2 CDs). 2006. Andrzej Sasin, Aleksandra Nagorko, prods. DDD. TT: 80:51
Performance *****
Sonics *****
Robert Levine Posted: Jul 16, 2006 0 comments
MAHLER: Symphony 8
Barbara Kubiak, Izabela Klosinska, Marta Boberska, sopranos; Jadwiga Rappé, Ewa Marciniec, altos; Timothy Bentch, tenor; Wojtek Drabowicz, baritone; Piotr Nowacki, bass; Warsaw National Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra, Polish Radio Choir in Krakow, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University Choir, Warsaw Boys Choir; Antoni Wit, conductor
Naxos 8.550533-34 (2 CDs). 2006. Andrzej Sasin, Aleksandra Nagorko, prods. DDD. TT: 80:51
Performance *****
Sonics *****
Robert Levine Posted: Jul 10, 2008 0 comments
HAYDN The Creation Sandrine Piau, Miah Persson, sopranos; Mark Padmore, tenor; Peter Harvey, baritone; Neal Davies, bass; Chetham's Chamber Choir, Gabrieli Consort of Players; Paul McCreesh
Archiv 477 7361 (2 CDs). 2008. Nicholas Parker, prod.; Jonathan Stokes, eng. DDD. TT: 108:56
Performance *****
Sound *****
Robert Levine Posted: Mar 11, 2006 0 comments
VERDI: La Traviata Anna Netrebko, Violetta; Rolando Villazón, Alfredo; Thomas Hampson, Germont; others; Vienna Philharmonic, Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor, Carlo Rizzi
Deutsche Grammophon B0005529-02 (2 CDs). 2005. Rainard Maillard, prod.; Jurgen Bulgrin, eng. DDD. TT: 2:04:13
Performance ****
Sonics ****
Robert Levine Posted: Nov 15, 2010 0 comments
Beethoven: Piano Concertos 1–5
Paul Lewis, piano; Jirí Belohlávek, BBC Symphony Orchestra
Harmonia Mundi 902053.55 (3 CDs). 2010. Martin Sauer, prod.; Philip Knop, eng. DDD. TT: 2:55:42
Performance *****
Sonics *****
Robert Levine Posted: Sep 22, 2015 Published: Oct 01, 2015 3 comments
Mahan Esfahani: Time Present and Time Past C.P.E. Bach: 12 Variations on "Les Folies d'Espagne." J.S. Bach: Harpsichord Concerto in d, BWV 1052. Geminiani: Concerto Grosso in d (after Corelli). Górecki: Harpsichord Concerto. Reich: Piano Phase for Two Pianos (harpsichord version: Esfahani). A. Scarlatti: Variations on "La Folia."
Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord; Concerto Köln
Archiv Produktion 4794481 (CD). 2015. Christoph Classen, prod.; Michael Morawietz, eng. DDD. TT: 73:45
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

This razzle-dazzle release is remarkable on several levels, and I wouldn't be surprised if it converted harpsichord haters to harpsichord hipsters. Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, stealing a quote from T.S. Eliot about the relevance—or irrelevance—of time and (while he's at it) the harpsichord, here presents the instrument in works written for it in the 17th and 18th centuries, interspersed with pieces by two 20th-century composers. (The album's title references these lines from Eliot's Four Quartets: "Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future, / And time future contained in time past.") Esfahani's argument holds water: bringing an "olde" instrument into the present with unflinchingly contemporary music turns this debut solo-recital disc into a splendid event—and, yes, proves that baroque music, with its repeating patterns, can make a fine pairing with minimalism. It's all far less jarring than you might think, and does provoke thoughts about the slippage of time.

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