Forgive the ramblings
of a superannuated colonial but here in Australia we haven't
heard of most of the artists appearing on this DVD. We've
heard of Edda Moser and Neil Shicoff because they've graced
the musical world for many years. We've also heard of Markus
Stenz but only because until recently he was the Chief Conductor
and Artistic Director of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Even baritone Thomas Quasthoff
is relatively unknown. Certainly pictures of him have not
been widely publicised. What a remarkable man he is; he's
not only conquered his thalidomide disability but, at the
age of just 46, he has now conquered the classical musical
world. Fischer-Dieskau in 1988 praised him for his 'wondrously
beautiful voice'. For years he doubted his ability to sing
the classics, flirting with singing jazz and doing stints
as a NDR radio announcer. Now, not only does he teach voice,
he also performs.
This DVD has been recorded
to benefit the battle against AIDS and deserves our support.
Musically, I am not quite sure. It has its ups and downs.
Take the two selections from Quasthoff for example. His first
contribution from Tannhauser is not really up his
street; it requires a bit more light and shade, and despite
his remarkable qualities Quasthoff doesn't quite succeed.
His second effort from Lortzing's Zar und Zimmermann is
an improvement. In spite of my not being able to understand
the lyrics (he sang in German and there were no subtitles)
it was obviously a comic aria and Quasthoff easily conveyed
the spritely nature of the song.
The overriding feeling
that lingers from this recording, however, is that the majority
of the artists sing too loudly, and I include Quasthoff in
this. Perhaps the fact that the orchestra plays behind the
singers is disconcerting but for veterans like soprano Edda
Moser and tenor Neil Shicoff that should not have posed a
I didn't think anyone
could ruin the trio from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier but
unfortunately the version that Ms Moser, Claudia Rohrbach
and Regina Richter tried to sing, achieved that. The trio
is musical lace, fragile, intricate and delicate. Instead
we got robustness and a lack of subtlety. The voices were
on a constant collision course both with the orchestra and
Similarly Neil Shicoff
was too loud and passionate in Puccini's Recondita Armonia and E
lucevan le stelle from Tosca. He was in fine voice and
on more than one occasion proved he has not lost the pianissimo
in his voice. In addition everything was sooooo slow. In
fact with E lucevan he controlled the tempo himself
- you could see Stenz following his lead - but, perhaps in
an effort to give the impression of passion, he dragged it
In that regard Marcus
Stenz was admirable. He allowed the singers sufficient latitude
to explore their phrasing in a musical and sensible manner.
Baritone Carlos Alvarez
also suffered from too much volume, soprano Michele Crider
was too dramatic but Alaskan-born mezzo Vivica Genaux impressed
with her Zarzuela rendition from Gimenez's La Tempranica.
Her first contribution from Rossini's La Cenerentola was
good but how I wish some coloraturas would generate their
trills from the back of the throat and not through manipulations
of the lips. Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian showed us how to
do it admirably with her aria from Semiramide. Trills
are wonderful when there is an air of wonderment about how
they are produced.
Georgian-born Tamar Iveri
was very good especially when singing Puccini's aria Chi
il bel sogno di Doretta from La Rondine. Star
performer, however, was tenor Saimir Pirgu with Donizetti's Una
furtiva lagrima and De Curtis's canzone Non ti scordar
di me. He is very personable, has a natural grace, great
stage presence and a promising bel-canto voice.
It only remains for me
to mention how entertaining and refreshing it was to hear
Konrad Beikircher's as narrator and presenter. Fortunately,
the subtitles were working then and his comments were greatly
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
Donate and get a free CD
prices cannot last!
Presto £13.50 +£2 pp
Amazon £15.53 post free
MusicWeb £10.50 post free
Follow us on Twitter
| Editorial Board
Seen & Heard
Editor in Chief