GRAMOPHONE Magazine Editor's Choice - February 2016. dB Productions celebrate the 150th anniversary of Carl Nielsen with two CD volumes of his music! Featured again on this second volume is one of Sweden’s leading violinists, Cecilia Zilliacus, in Nielsen’s violin concerto. The Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra is conducted by young rising star, Daniel Blendulf.
This was to be the end of the line for Italian word-setting by Viennese composers: once the confident sentiments that belonged to the poet Metastasio's opera seria felt the chill and threatening wind of Enlightenment and Revolution, their time was up. Even we, for the most part, prefer to remember the German-speaking Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn. So it is good to be reminded of their responses to the Italian muse (usually as part of their craft-learning student work) in this particularly well-cast recital. Central Europe, in the person of Andras Schiff meets Italy, in Cecilia Bartoli, to delightful, often revelatory effect.
The Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli is one of the most charming and talented singers to appear on the scene in recent years, and this collection of Italian songs by three great opera composers–Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini–is a most deserving bestseller. There are many small pleasures in the selections, which reflect the bel canto predilections of their authors, and Bartoli renders them artfully. Some will be familiar even to casual listeners (Rossini's La Danza, the famous tarantella); others will be new to most, but equally deserving of a hearing. The sensitive and skillful accompaniment is by conductor-pianist James Levine.
The death of Henri Dutilleux on 22 May 2013 robbed the musical world of one of its most distinctive voices. Dutilleux was renowned for his exquisite craftsmanship and feel for instrumental colour, as well as for an extraordinary generosity of spirit that was invariably reflected in his music. Indeed, pianist Akanè Makita describes Dutilleux as a 'generous, sensitive man' who, when the artists involved in this recording wrote to him to tell him about the project, replied to say how 'greatly touched' and 'moved' he was. This warm and unexpected response from such an eminent composer inspired the musicians to put their all into the recording; the fact that it was completed on the day of Dutilleux's death makes it all the more fitting a tribute to him. The chamber works featured on this disc demonstrate Dutilleux's superb command of instrumental timbre – as flautist Andrea Oliva says, 'Dutilleux is brilliant at custom-designing the music to suit the specific characteristics of each instrument'.
The odes that Purcell wrote for annual concerts in honor of St. Cecilia (the patron saint of music) are among his most celebrated works. Chief among them is Hail! Bright Cæcilia, which calls for the "Warb'ling Lute … airy Violin … Am'rous Flute," and all the Harmony of War," along with chorus and a bevy of soloists, to demonstrate their prowess… –Matthew Westphal