Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

I Musici

ABC 074 3213 (CD & DVD set)

The Four Seasons are so well known, but when the sound of I Musici is combined with the visual element of Venice, then this becomes a real treat. This is a DVD with a difference; the beauty and delights of Venice can be experienced in sympatico with the musicians of I Musici, the world-renowned ensemble from Italy, who traverse canals and byways of the romantic city, and is interspersed with some of the great art works including masterpieces by Canaletto, Guardi and Tintoretto. (A full list of the art works accompanies the printed booklet.)

Musicologist, David Hogarth eloquently writes about this famous work and the eminent ensemble, making for very informative notes to accompany the recordings.

“I Musici was instrumental in bringing the Venetian composers, Vivaldi and Albinoni back to the attention of the modern world. Today’s ‘authentic’ music movement may never have been born had the group not first spearheaded the ‘Baroque Revival’ in the 1950s.”

The Anton von Munster film is beautifully produced, and whilst this was recorded in 1988, it is newly released by ABC (from the original Decca release).

In addition, there is a CD of six other Vivaldi works (recorded in 1965), which sound incredibly fresh and vibrant. The selection includes the Concerto for violin and cello in B flat, RV 547, Concerto for 2 violins and 2 cellos in D, RV 564, Concerto in A major, RV 552, Concerto for strings in D minor (Madrigalesco), RV 129, and Sonata a Quattro for strings in E flat (Al Santo Sepolero), RV 130.

The recordings (on either DVD or CD) are truly glorious, and are performed with intelligent sensitivity. These still remain some of the world’s finest recordings of these iconic works.

I Dreamed a Dream: Hit Songs from Broadway

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Guy Noble

Various Artists

ABC 481 0378

Nineteen of the best-loved songs from twelve landmark musicals (from composers such as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Rodgers, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Leonard Bernstein, Robert and Richard Sherman, and Stephen Sondheim) coupled with a full orchestral backing from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, along with eight wonderful Australian musical theatre stars make this a stand-out recording.

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Guy Noble

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Guy Noble

Each performer hits the mark in his/her chosen songs, bringing to life the lyrics with an excitement and passion you would wish for in live theatre. Their individual vocal artistry and commitment to the music is the reason they each have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy careers on the stage.

Included are Toni Lamond AM (the indisputable doyenne of Australian Musical Theatre, and star of 42nd Street, My Fair Lady and five Lifetime Achievement Awards), Amanda Harrison (the original Elphaba in the Australian production of Wicked), Trisha Crowe (Christine in Masterpiece – The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber), Lucy Maunder (Lara in Doctor Zhivago), Jacqueline Dark (Don Giovanni, and Cinderella), Andy Conaghan (South Pacific, Oklahoma!, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), Michael Falzon (Side by Side by Sondheim), and David Parker (The Magic Flute, Rigoletto).

Whatever is your favourite song or musical, this compilation disc will simply astound you, whether it is the powerful title track, Stars, Bring Him Home, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, or On My Own (Les Miserables), The Music of the Night or All I Ask of You (The Phantom of the Opera), Memory (Cats), Some Enchanted Evening (South Pacific), Send in the Clowns (A Little Night Music), the evocative Over the Rainbow (The Wizard of Oz), Climb Ev’ry Mountain, My Favourite Things, or Edelweiss (The Sound of Music), Supercalifragilisticespialidocious (Mary Poppins), Don’t Cry for Me Argentina (Evita), Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’ (Oklahoma), Tonight (West Side Story) or wittily delivered Chitty Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Conductor, Guy Noble brings together this stellar cast of singers and musicians to produce a first-class collection, worthy of Broadway or the West End.

Noble’s recent “soapbox” contribution in Limelight (January 2014) suggests that he wish for musicals to remain interesting musically. He points specifically to those works by Richard Rodgers, in which the chord structures showed a “master at work”.

“Imaginative, unusual, it is the bedrock on which the melody sits,” writes Noble.

“We seemed to have lost harmonic biodiversity. All the complex and unusual chords have gone the way of the dodo and we are left with the same three or four triads over and over again, a diet of I, IV, II and V.” This might account for the selections on this disc not venturing into the realms of the new and more adventurous (perhaps lesser known) musicals, emerging on the scene today. Of course, the producers at ABC Classics could have released many more than one CD of songs that would fit the criteria of this particular conductor. Hopefully, they will in years to come, further capturing some of the great musical theatre talent in this country.

Between the Keys: Ensemble Offspring

Dedicated to new music and new ideas in music performance, Ensemble Offspring has produced a recording of most unusual compositions, based around a new tuning system.

Ensemble Offspring

Ensemble Offspring

Various composers have collaborated with instrument makers to achieve their objectives in the creation of this new musical vocabulary. The CD booklet helps to explain, via a short historical glance, the difference between Equal Temperament, Just Temperament, and the newly devised Centaur tuning system, which is so important to this new music.

 

At times though, for the layman, one senses that a degree in applied mathematics or physics might not go astray, in order truly to grasp the numerical intricacies involved.

The greatest proponent of new tuning systems (and consequently the new invention of instruments to which these systems can be applied) is the American microtonal maverick composer and inventor, Harry Partch. Suffice it to say, Partch’s work in this area is enough for its own separate study, and I would recommend his “Genesis of a Music” (1947) should readers be more interested in discovering more deeply about this concept. This recording and performance endeavour, however, is Ensemble Offspring’s own tribute to that philosophy and output of Partch.

On the other hand, one can find appeal in simply listening to the recording as a collection of new music, some of which is inspired by non-Western ideas.

Mysteries by Arana Li utilises the clarinis (a type of new clarinet) and the tarhu (a spike-fiddle like the Middle Eastern Kamancheh) in what is an evocative and meditative dialogue between istruments.

Philip Glass’s Music in Similar Motion is appealing for its repetitive melodic and rhythmic cells.

Amanda Cole’s Hydra (three movement work), based on the Ancient Greek mythology, employs 4 clarinis to enable tunings of major, minor, phrygian and lydian modes to be used.The movements are based solely on the rhythmic and melodic adaption of 4 notes only.

Music and colour are often connected, and in Damien Ricketson’s Some Shade of Blue which uses tarhu and centaur vibraphone, allusions are drawn with the final movement of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, and.

The pentatonic Akashic Torus by Kraig Grady further enhances one’s interest in eastern philosophy and the diverse patterns found in numbers.

Nuance and colour are the primary elements in Terumi Narushima’s Hidden Sidetracks, with its diverse use of many instruments, and extended performance techniques.

Such works are challenging indeed to our aural senses, but highlight the creativity of these unique performers and composers, as well as the myriad sonic possibilities that can be produced.

Ensemble Offspring is a group of innovative musicians, comprising amongst others, Claire Edwardes, Damien Ricketson, Bree van Reyk, Jason Noble, and Diana Springford, who are joined on this recording by Anna McMichael, Peter Biffin, Kraig Grady and Linsey Pollak. This recording has not been released by one of the major recording labels, but rather those wishing to purchase a copy (or individual tracks) can do so via the website http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/ensembleoffspring2

In Tune with Music, Books 1 & 2 (Fourth edition)

Ian Dorricott & Bernice Allan

ISBN 97800702772212 & 9780170221252

Cengage Learning Australia

A substantial series of texts for music educators in this country is the In Tune With Music books, now in its fourth edition. Able to take students (and teachers) through Stage 5 music (of the NSW Board of Studies course), these books are jam-packed with resources and teaching ideas.

9780070277212_2Book 1 covers five topics: World Music, The Musical, Australian Music, Music’s Classic Hits, and The Pioneers of Rock. Breaking each of these units down, there are plenty of examples and sub-units within to engage students and teachers, alike.

In World Music, the authors have ably covered African, Chinese, Irish, Polynesian, Andean, Caribbean and Australian Aboriginal music.

Australian Music itself is broken into two sections, Art Music (covering solo piano, chamber, orchestral and choral music) and Popular Music (Rock, Pop, Dance, Blues and Roots, Country, and Jazz).

Music’s Classic Hits sounds like a chapter continuing with Rock & Popular Music, but instead it is covering the “hits” of the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Twentieth century.

Book 2 includes units on Jazz and its many styles, Instrumental Music, Rock since 2000, Vocal Music, Australian Art Music of the Twenty-first century, and two new units since the last edition, Orchestral Music for the Stage and Screen, and Arranging.

The exceptional aspects to these useful texts are the new contemporary listening examples, including many by Australian composers (a CD set is additional and complements the text), revision sections, margin notes and glossaries.

The broad range of listening, performance, composing, score reading, writing and aural dictation activities ensures that all parts of the BOS syllabus is manifestly covered.

In addition to the CD set, there are Teaching Manuals and Score Reading Books, which accompany the student texts.

Never again is a teacher left searching for material or ideas on how to bring the study of these units to life, if they use In Tune with Music. These are colourful, readable, up-to-date, and engaging texts for all students, with carefully chosen set works.