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Duo has a way with Bellini, Broadway

September 07, 2003|Daniel Cariaga; Allan Ulrich; Josef Woodard; Richard S. Ginell

"A Quiet Thing: Songs for Voice and Guitar"

David Daniels, countertenor. Craig Ogden, guitar. (Virgin Classics)

***

Daniels and Ogden -- versatile, articulate and impassioned -- perform this wide-ranging selection of Kander, Wilder, Bellini, Schubert and other composers so convincingly one can hardly think of the result as crossover. It is simply persuasive. Songs by Dowland and Bellini are best; also memorable are Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" and Martini's "Plaisir d'amour." Ogden is the countertenor's perfect collaborator, though he becomes at some moments too self-effacing.

-- Daniel Cariaga

Conductor of two minds about Ninth

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9.

Mary Dunleavy, soprano. Elizabeth Bishop, mezzo-soprano. Stephen Gould, tenor. Alastair Miles, bass. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Donald Runnicles, conductor. (Telarc)

**

Scottish maestro Runnicles, Atlanta's principal guest and an increasingly frequent participant in American musical life, adopts widely divergent attitudes toward this most cherished of Romantic masterpieces. In the extreme -- even daring -- flexibility of tempo, broad dynamic range and leisurely releases in the first and third movements, he aligns himself with the Teutonic transcendentalists. Yet in the dry, jolting timpani attacks and urgent pacing in the scherzo, he pays his respects to period instrument orthodoxy. The Schiller ode in the finale introduces a splendid, nonhousehold-name quartet of soloists and Atlanta's sterling chorus, and the movement delivers the cogency and thrust missing earlier.

-- Allan Ulrich

Composer melds

East and West

Chen Yi: "Momentum"

Cho-Liang Lin, Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, violin. Singapore Symphony. Lan Shui, conductor. (BIS)

***

East has long been meeting West, musically, in a multitude of ways and with varying success. Chen Yi is part of a wave of Chinese emigre composers in America, alongside Tan Dun, Bright Sheng and others, that is establishing a fascinating new East-West accord. This collection of Chen's orchestral and chamber works tidily exemplifies what makes her music important -- namely, that her influences range from Chinese folk traditions to ancient Chinese sonorities, she has a firm grasp of contemporary Western concert music and she's actively exploring new ways to connect the impulses. Violin, robustly played by Cho-Liang Lin and Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, becomes a key instrumental bridge on two conspicuously cross-cultural pieces here, "Chinese Folk Dances" and "Romance and Dance."

-- Josef Woodard

Centuries-old works age badly

Tomkins: "Above the Starrs"

Emma Kirkby, soprano; Catherine King, alto; Charles Daniels, tenor; Donald Greig, baritone; Richard Wistreich and Jonathan Arnold, basses. Fretwork. (Harmonia Mundi)

**

Thomas TOMKINS, who lived an extraordinarily long life for his time (1572-1656), made his mark with verse anthems that were widely used in English cathedrals before the start of the 1642 English Civil War. Half a dozen of these vocal pieces are included in this anthology, expertly sung by a sextet of early music specialists. However, most of the disc is taken up by a selection of six fantasias and eight other contrapuntal Tomkins instrumental works played by a consort of treble, tenor and bass viols under the name Fretwork. Frankly, though, a little Tomkins goes a long, long way. The relentlessly staid, earthbound writing, the swelling attacks of the period instruments, the dreary counterpoint -- however sympathetically played and richly recorded -- tax the attention span over 73 minutes.

-- Richard S. Ginell

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