Latest CD reviews


BARITENOR: Spyres / Strasbourg Philharmonic / Rhine Opera Chorus / Letonja ★★★★
The "Baritenor" voice type is a gimmick invented by Erato's marketing department. Michael Spyres shows off his bright well-focused tenor, and versatility, in 18 arias in French, German and Italian from three centuries of repertoire in a very generous 84 minute recital. No doubts about the American's top notes – the nine consecutive high Cs in the showpiece Ah, mes ami from Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment answers that. He's a master in the French repertoire; Offenbach's Kleinzach aria is elegant and effortless. The baritone arias are cunningly chosen, playing to Spyres' strengths – his French diction and suavity as Thomas's Hamlet – or where a baritone would use his high register or head voice, in Verdi's ll Balen and Don Giovanni's window serenade. In the heroic repertoire (in either voice) Spyres lacks the vocal heft and trumpet tones of a Domingo or Corelli. Fine support from orchestra and chorus under Marko Letonja.
Norman Stinchcombe

CHOPIN: Beatrice Rana ★★★
The Italian pianist Beatrice Rana has immense technical gifts. Listen to her in Chopin's Op.25 Etudes and the Four Scherzi and the question arises – is there nothing she can't play? In the ninth Etude her touch is perfect, it's fluttering Butterfly nickname beautifully airborne, with the final notes fading gently just as Chopin requested. Her articulation of fast passages is reminiscent of the young Argerich as is, in the twelfth Etude, her ability to generate immense power without becoming bombastic or clangorous. Such felicities are emphasized by Warner Classics' life-like recording. At her unselfconscious best, as in first few Etudes, Rana sounds ravishing and her re-appraisals – like the tenth Etude – often work well. Like Pogorelich, however, Rana's prodigious talent can veer into mere prodigality – the desire to make everything sound individual. Thus the B minor Scherzo's tempi are pulled about and the C minor also has similar idiosyncratic look-at-me-being-original passages.
Norman Stinchcombe

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