As we’re between concert seasons right now, time to share some impressions of a number of exciting recorded music releases that have come my way over the past year…
The baroque renaissance continues apace, with new discoveries hitting the retail cyber shelves of Amazon and the like at a rate of knots. Among the plethora of new-generation stars to emerge on the international recording scene, the formidably gifted countertenor David Hansen has made waves with his sensational debut solo release.
Casually titled Rivals – Arias for Farinelli & Co, this comes emblazoned with photos that affirm the new star’s eye-candy attributes, which rival any rock or film idol going, as well as proclaiming his ability to deliver the goods to stunning effect through sheer musical accomplishment.
Hailed in The New Yorker as “a pure-voiced young Australian who is typical of a new breed of matinée-idol countertenors” Hansen’s astonishingly beautiful falsetto singing voice and astounding technique have to be heard to be believed.
Negotiating a free-ranging soprano compass of more than three octaves with ease and apparently unlimited prowess in the virtuoso stakes, Hansen’s dazzling vocality is surely the most convincing hark-back ever heard in today’s technological age to what the legendary castrati of the 18th century must have sounded like.
In her illuminating interview ‘It’s a long way to the top’, journalist Melissa Lesnie wrote in the Australian magazine Limelight: “Hansen is at the top of the food chain with an instrument that even the world’s most popular countertenor, Philippe Jaroussky, graciously acknowledges outstrips his own range. Hansen’s high B’s and C’s, pure yet powerful, place him smack bang between Beach Boy and Queen of the Night. This upper extension makes him the envy of male and female singers alike, and makes him almost unclassifiable”.
Notwithstanding Hansen’s bent for rock-star glamour, pursued in his photo shoots, his cutting edge virtuosity is something the man revels in. He delivers the goods with no small measure of success throughout a programme of vocal show-stoppers that includes no less than twelve world premiere recorded items. Many of these can be sampled on Youtube. Try the disc’s ravishing 2nd track, ‘Sento due fiama in petto’ (‘In my breast I feel two fires’), a spell-binding slow aria with a haunting oboe obligato solo, stretching over more than 12minutes, from Il Medo by Leonardo Vinci (1690 – 1730).
Other Baroque opera releases to sample with relish include: a high profile new recording of Handel’s opera Tamerlano, conducted by Riccardo Minassi with a stellar line-up including countertenors Xavier Sabata and Max Emanuel Cenčić, tenor John Mark Ainsley and Canadian star soprano Karina Gauvin; and the world premier recording of Hasse’s Siroe Re di Persia.
The Handel masterwork, adhering largely to composer’s 1731 version of this wonderful score, is a must-have, while sampling is advised with regard to the Hasse rarity, which also features the intrepid Mr Cenčić in its line-up of luminaries, along with the dazzling young Russian coloratura soprano, Julia Lezhneva.
Untold delight awaits enthusiasts on discovering the delectable Karina Gauvin’s latest disc of Handel arias, issued under the title Prima Donna by the Canadian label, Atma Classique. In the closing track, the supreme simplicity and crystalline beauty of Madame Gauvin’s heart-stopping rendering of the famous aria, ‘Care selve’ from Handel’s pastoral opera, Atalanta, must surely be the closest thing imaginable to finding oneself in heaven.
Tearing myself away from the wondrous world of opera, a final recommendation offered up here follows my long-awaited acquisition of Hyperion’s two-CD album of the inimitable Stephen Hough performing the complete music for piano and orchestra of Tchaikovsky.
Hough’s barnstorming accounts of these visceral works, which fittingly marked Hyperion's 50th recording in their Romantic Piano Concerto series, were captured live in excellent acoustics under the baton of Osmo Vänskä at the helm of the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra. Throughout each performance, Hough's unrivalled brilliance shines through, magnificently matched by the crack orchestral forces at his disposal, leaving one breathless with exhilaration and fully in sync with the storm of applause that greets the close of each piece.
So, with the postal strike finally over, how about indulging in a flurry of express online shopping to make someone – yourself? – a happy chappy this festive season.
-republished courtesy of The Mercury Newspaper-