> PREVIN Diversions etc [JP]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Diversions (1999)
Sallie Chisum remembers Billy the Kid – orchestral version - (1994)
Vocalise – orchestral version – (1995)
The Giraffes go to Hamburg (2000)
Three Dickinson Songs (1999)

Barbara Bonney, soprano, Renee Fleming, soprano, Moray Welsh, cello, with Wiener Philharmoniker (Diversions),and the London Symphony Orchestra (Sallie Chishum and Vocalise) conducted by André Previn, (conductor and piano).
recorded 5/2000 in Musikverein, Wien (Diversions), 5/2000 in the Academy of Arts & Letters, New York (Giraffes, Songs), 6/2000 in Abbey Road Studios, London (Sallie and Vocalise).
DG 471 028-2 [56.39]


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We are told that the recording industry is in a very poor condition these days. It generally seems to be the case that most of the majors have ceased recording yet other versions of the popular classics by the next up and coming young maestro. We may therefore be in for a number of treats, as music which may not have made it to the studio is now being recorded.

The logic behind this is presumably "let us release something a little out of the ordinary and see what happens." If choice of artists have anything to do with it, this disc should do very well. We have two of the most popular young sopranos around at present, the Vienna Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra and André Previn, both conducting and playing.

This disc displays different facets of Previn’s work as a composer, and it would be a shame if lovers of orchestral works or piano accompanied vocal works were each to steer clear of this recording because of the presence of the other on the disc. His music is easy to listen to, but there is enough complexity to keep the interest from flagging.

The Diversions was written in 1999 for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and premiered by them in January 2000. It is in four movements – a prologue, followed by a slow passacaglia, then a fast section and a slow finale. Solo passages are clearly in evidence for clarinet, cello, piccolo, horn, trumpet bassoon, oboe and flute. So a mini concerto for orchestra. This was recorded live, and as in the past with DGG, this means primarily live with patching sessions clearing all of the major audience noises, including applause, which I am sure there was plenty.

This is the second time Barbara Bonney has recorded both the Vocalise and Sallie Chishum – she did it for Decca in the mid-nineties in Boston, accompanied by Previn at the piano. What we have on this disc is the orchestral premieres, so if you have the previous recording, there is no direct duplication.

Renee Fleming then takes over, with Previn accompanying at the piano, in two further brand new works originally premiered by Fleming. The Giraffes Go to Hamburg is a setting of a very short excerpt from Karen Blixen’s "Out of Africa" and the Three Dickinson Songs which were written for Renee Fleming.

André Previn is extremely lucky in that he couldn’t wish for better standards of performance from his various artists, the singers in particular both performing their respective pieces with sensitivity and charm. If I single out the singers for special mention, this is not to denigrate the two orchestras who turn in performances as we all would expect, and DGG’s recording and presentation are well up to their normal house standard. Very highly recommended.

John Phillips

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