Norman Stinchcombe's latest CD reviews


BACH & HANDEL : Devieilhe Pygmalion / Pinchon ★★★★★

Sabine Devieilhe is the reigning Queen of the Night in Europe's opera houses and so handles the coloratura demands of Handel with consummate ease. Two Cleopatra arias from 'Julius Caesar in Egypt' – star turns for great sopranos like Joan Sutherland – showcase Devieilhe's pin-point accuracy and grace. In both 'Che sento' and 'Piangero' Cleopatra is no longer the bewitching beauty but a woman facing her downfall and death and Devieilhe, very much inside the character, draws her plight convincingly. She is versatile too, capturing Mary's misery as her son Jesus is dragged away in the aria from Handel's 'Brocke's Passion'. She is impassioned and moving in Bach's solo cantata 'Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut'. The accompaniment by the Pygmalion Ensemble under Raphaël Pinchon is quicksilver and alert. The generous 84 minute recital ends with the final 'Alleluja' of Bach's 'Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen' reverberating triumphantly in Paris's Temple du St-Esprit.

Norman Stinchcombe

MANUEL de FALLA 'The Spanish Soul': Various Artists (11 CD box set) ★★★

Falla's 'Atlantida', a "huge, sprawling, hybrid piece, part cantata, part opera" in the words of the recording's EMI producer Suvi Raj Grubb, appears for the first time since 1978. It was unfinished when Falla died and completed by Ernesto Halffter. In his autobiography Grubb tells of the chaotic Madrid recording sessions – Halffter handing over the last pages one hour before the final session – with the Spanish forces conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. Amazingly it all hangs together, rich, wild and romantic – a must for Falla aficionados. Elsewhere, all the favourites are here including Giulini's classic 1960s recordings of the 'Three Cornered Hat' and 'Love the Magician' with the unmatched Victoria de Los Angeles. The young Alicia de Larrocha's recordings of Falla's piano music are masterly (her Decca remakes are better recorded); John Williams' guitar performances are adept. Historical recordings include luminaries like Menuhin, Oistrakh, Barbirolli and Falla himself.

Norman Stinchcombe

'ANIMA AETERNA' : Orlinksi, Said, Il Pomo d'Oro / Corti ★★★★

There has been enormous surge of interest in countertenors in recent years. Now after Jarousky, Sabata, Mehta and Cencic comes the young Polish singer Jakub Jozef Orlinski. It's very much the "voice of angel" as his YouTube followers have dubbed him – 2.4 million hits for his clip of Vivaldi's 'Vedrò con mio diletto'. It's a pure "white" sound, tightly focused and quite small; I can't envisage him tackling the big Handelian castrato roles in the opera house. Here the focus is on baroque cantatas and motets which plays to Orlinski's strengths. 'Non t'amo per il ciel' by Johann Fux showcases his flexibility, while Almeida's 'Giusto Dio' and and the 'Alleluja' from Handel's Antiphon in D minor foregrounds his ultra-smooth legato. The highlight is Zelenka's motet 'Laetatus sum' where he's joined by rising star soprano Fatima Said – a perfect vocal match – with characterful support from Il Pomo d'Oro under Francesco Corti.

Norman Stinchcombe

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