ABC 476 4997
This beautifully packaged 1CD digipack contains a stunning collection of English works performed by Australia’s premiere period chamber ensemble, Ironwood and the magnetic UK-based soprano, Miriam Allan. Featuring best-selling tracks such as Music for a While, If Love’s a Sweet Passion and Fairest Isle by Purcell, and chamber works by Handel including Silete venti.
Fairest Aisle from King Arthur, Z628
I am Come to Lock All Fast from The Fairy Queen, Z629
If Love's a Sweet Passion from The Fairy Queen
Overture from The Indian Queen, Z630
She Loves and She Confesses Too, Z413
A New Ground, Z339/3
Why Should Men Quarrel? from The Indian Queen
Curtain Tune from Timon of Athens, Z632
Music for a While from Oedipus, Z583
Third Act Tune: Hornpipe from King Arthur
O! Fair Cedaria, Z402
George Frideric Handel
Trio Sonata in G major, Op. 5 No. 4, HWV399
Silete venti, HWV242
This generous and pleasurable program from Australian ex-pat soprano Miriam Allan and early music group Ironwood offers elegance in abundance. Above all, Allan's singing mirrors the elegance of the music with beautifully shaped phrases, crystal-clear diction and deep empathy with the lyrics. In terms of vocal tone colour and production, there are, of course, similarities to be made with Dame Emma kirkby, but there is also an attractive individuality to Allan's instrument wiht repays repeated listening. Many Purcell favourites are features here: Fairest Isle from King Arthur, If Love's a Sweet Passion from The Fairy Queen and Music for a While from Oedipus. There are woven into a satisfying sequence with other vocal and instrumental items drawn mainly from Purcell's theatre music.
Ironwood's playing is also innately elegant, displaying polished ensemble and a sensitive ear for instrumental colour. (Kirsten Barry's oboe is a particular delight, among others.) Handel's five-movement Trio Sonata in G (HWV 399) is a perfect vehicle for these fine musicians. In particular, its final three movements - a passacaglia, a gigue and a minuet - are dispatched with good hmour. Silete Venti (Silence, Winds), a devotional motet in Latin (also in five parts) is one of Handel's last works in the genre. It is full of dramatic flourished and coloratura writing that allow Allan to display her considerable vocal agility and a stylish approach to ornamentation. Attractive packaing and sympathetic engineering are further incentives to buy this splendid disc.
Allan’s voice is light, eminently suited to the chamber format, with a clear and ringing higher register but with an emotional depth and warmth that reaches across to the audience. Her presence on stage is magnetic.
Australian Stage, 2009
ABC 476 3673
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote sublime music for the oboe; here it is performed by Australia’s leading early music experts Ironwood, featuring our own world-renowned Diana Doherty, one of our most charismatic performers (and one of ABC Classics’ best-selling artists!).
This uplifting album is enhanced by a bonus DVD. Interspersed with footage of the recording sessions is an interview with Diana Doherty in which she talks about the music and her experience of playing and recording it.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Concerto in D minor for Oboe, BWV1059R
Concerto in D major for Oboe d’amore, BWV1053R
Concerto in A major for Oboe d’amore, BWV1055R
Sinfonia in F minor from Cantata BWV12, ‘Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen’
Sinfonia in C minor from Cantata BWV21, ‘Ich hatte viel Berkummernis’
Sonata in G minor, BWV1030b
You can well understand that they have performed internationally with some of the most distinguished period ensembles in existence when you hear their world class accompaniment in this recording.
Critic's Pick *****
Fine Music 2MBS
Cantillation, Jane Sheldon, Ironwood, Sydney Chamber Choir, Gondwana Voices & Southern Cross Soloists
ABC 476 3870
Exquisite, evocative vocal music from a rising star in Australian music. Paul Stanhope is a Sydney musician who is Musica Viva’s Featured Composer for 2010. This album brings together some of his loveliest works for choir and for solo voice, with a variety of accompaniments. As Gordon Kerry writes in the CD booklet, ‘He does not seek to ‘paint’ or evoke specific locales, so much as to give a powerful sense of being at ocean’s margin, in the hush of a rainforest, or by a lagoon shimmering in the moonlight, and to explore human emotions and feelings in those geographical contexts.’
Songs for the Shadowland
Three Geography Songs
Songs of Innocence and Joy
Steal Away (arr. Paul Stanhope)
Fiona Campbell mezzo-soprano
David Walker countertenor
Neal Peres Da Costa director
Francesco Cavalli (1602–1676) L’Ormindo; La Calisto
Agostino Steffani (1654–1728) La libertà contenta*
George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) “Caro autor di mia doglia” – Duet, hwv 182b*; Alcina; Giulio Cesare in Egitto; Susanna; Alexander Balus and Theodora:
Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643) / Benedetto Ferrari (c.1603-1681) L’incoronazione di Poppea
* WORLD-PREMIERE RECORDING
Fiona Campbell mezzo-soprano, is an accomplished international performer and recording artist. She sings regularly with the major orchestras and ensembles in her native Australia and around the world.
American countertenor David Walker is highly sought after as an operatic and oratorio artist in a diverse repertoire. In 2010 David started a dual master’s degree in arts and business administration, in preparation for the next stage in his career: arts and music management.
“Baroque Duets” is the inaugural release of the innovative classical music production and recording enterprise Vexations840. Based in Sydney, they plan to assist and encourage the making and recording of music that would otherwise not happen.
This is a splendid recording, and what a pleasure it is to be able to heap such high praise on to a recording. My problem is to choose particular tracks for a review, since all of them exhibit such a very high standard.
The mezzo-soprano Fiona Campbell had previously teamed up with counter-tenor David Walker for two Pinchgut opera productions, the last being Cavalli's L'Ormindo, at which time they decided to make a recording of baroque duets. If you lucky enough to have heard this duet singing at that production, you'll understand how and why the concept for this recording arose. The duets here from the prison scene in L'Ormindo are by themselves sufficient to justify the purchase of this CD - but there's more, much more!
With an instinctive feeling for each other's voice, timing and interpretation, these two master musicians weave an all-encompassing spell around each other - and around the listener. The selection brings back many favourites, including their famed duets from L'Ormindo, and duets from Handel's Julis Caesar in Egypt and 'Pur ti miro' from Monteverdi's L'inconorazione di Poppea. It also presents two previously unrecorded jewels, Agostino Steffani's La liberta contenta, and Caro autor di mia doglia by Handel.
What contributes greatly to the success of this recording is the supreme quality of the accompaniment provided by Ironwood, for which Neal Peres da Costa's direction from the harpsichord must take great credit. In this case, perhaps the word 'accompaniment' doesn't do justice to the way in which the instrumental component rises to the status of equal partners in the creation of a work of exquisite balance - graciously complementing the vocal lines without any hint of intrusion or domination. Mention also has to be made of the exquisite and completely unobtrusive balance of voices and instruments in the mixing of this recording - which allows the voices and instruments to blend so seamlessly.
With Australia now quite capable of regularly issuing world-class recordings of this calibre, we know that we can hold our own with the very best in the world. If Baroque Duets doesn't so on to win some prizes, I will be very surprised. Buy it with confidence for any lover of baroque opera.
Andrew Dziedzic *****
Fine Music 2MBS 2011