CD and Other Review

Review: Bach: St John Passion (Les Musiciens du Louvre/Marc Minkowski)

Great respect has characterised Marc Minkowski’s decision to allow some 30 years of his career to pass before recording the St John. In choosing to use only eight singers he is at pains to create an intimate but intense reading of this most powerful work. This performance is based on the original 1724 version, but appends two arias from the revisions Bach made a year later, as well as employing later additions to the original orchestration (contrabassoon and theorbo) and a harpsichord in the continuo. Minkowski is intent on bringing out the radical musical drama that must have shocked, or at least perplexed, the good burghers of Leipzig that Good Friday afternoon in 1724. Eschewing the textural contrast between soloists and chorus, Minkowski differentiates between the various musical elements by adopting brisk tempos for choruses and deftly connecting them to recitatives, creating an almost frenetic telling of the story, in which Evangelist Lothar  Odinius plays an impressive role. The arias offer varied meditations on the action. Australian countertenor David Hansen delivers an impassioned account of the aria Von der Stricken. Fellow alto, Delphine Galou, sings the more famous Es ist vollbracht with great empathy. No one performance will ever have…

August 4, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Oh Boy! (Marianne Crebassa, Mozarteumorchester/Minkowski)

French mezzo Marianne Crebassa’s debut disc makes a stylish calling card that should raise the stock of this fine artist. Her characteristic French tang, tight vibrato and tasteful use of portamento harks back to an earlier style but her precise intonation and control in passage work is very much of our time. There is a true mezzo quality to her timbre but she doesn’t bellow in chest voice. Her plangent manner recalls a young Frederica von Stade. The programme alternates 19th-century French arias with Mozart’s seria plums for castrati but, while it may be a celebration of trouser roles, she sounds resolutely feminine. From the impish cover shot, I suspect she is convincingly boyish on stage, so thankfully she doesn’t resort to arch guying; the inevitable Cherubino numbers are refreshingly straight. Flashy numbers show off her immaculate legato fiorature with no nasty aspirants: Il tenero momento from Lucio Silla is a showstopper. The bravura aria from Gluck’s Berliozed Orphée with its cadenza padded out by Saint-Saëns might horrify purists but Crebassa’s elegant poise channels the spirit of Pauline Viadot. The number from Chabrier’s L’Étoile is a sensuous delight as is Sommeil, ami des dieux from Thomas’ Psyché. Marc Minkowski directs…

May 5, 2017