Tania Kross, "Krossover – Opera Revisited" (Challenge Classics)
Krossover represents Dutch mezzo Tania Kross’s attempt to restore populist appeal to classical music without resorting to another “opera hits” aria collection. Instead, she invited contemporary Dutch pop composers to apply classical techniques to classic themes, creating new music with strong melodies rather than modernist stringencies, the results sumptuously arranged and sung with poise, power and precision. The songs deal with the life-shattering events and emotions familiar in opera in some cases developing themes and characters from existing works, most notably Robert Jan Stips’ “Not a Some Time Thing”, which offers the dead Bess’s testament to her love for Porgy. Most exquisite of all is “Mea Culpa”, a moving apology for momentary betrayal.
Download: Mea culpa; Not a Some Time Thing; Undyed
Bruno Perrault & Matteo Ramon Arevalos, "Sérimpie: Compositions for Ondes Martenot and Piano" (Recommended)
If Clara Rockmore was the virtuoso of the theremin, Bruno Perrault is surely her equivalent on its sophisticated cousin, the Ondes Martenot. Accompanied here by the pianist Matteo Arevalos, its effortless, eternal sustain and elegant electronic glissandi are skilfully manipulated by Perrault to bring an otherworldly grace to pieces by early adopters like André Jolivet (“Trois Poèmes”) and Darius Milhaud (“Suite Op 120c”). Also included are later works adapted for the Ondes, such as Kazuo Fukushima’s solo flute composition “Meï” and Arvo Pärt’s violin/piano duet “Spiegel im Spiegel”, a beautiful alliance of soaring, wistful lines over anchoring piano triplets.
Download: Spiegel im Spiegel; Trois Poèmes; Meï; Suite Op. 120c
Thomas Zehetmair, Orchestre De Chambre De Paris, "Ravel Debussy" (Naïve)
This programme tracking the links between Debussy and Ravel opens with the latter’s extraordinary “Tzigane”, a rhapsodic piece akin to a Gypsified Paganini Caprices, its virtuosic twists and turns negotiated here with panache by Thomas Zehetmair. Then follows a crunching downshift to the more limpid, modest tones of “Pavane for a Dead Infant”, a musical sorbet enabling the subsequent “Le Tombeau de Couperin” to unfold its baroque homage unencumbered. It leads neatly into “Petite Suite”, Debussy’s least taxing piece providing a further bridge to the “Danses Sacrée et Profane”, , before the programme concludes with pleasing circularity in Ravel’s orchestrations of Debussy’s “Sarabande” and “Danse”.
Download: Tzigane; Le Tombeau de Couperin; Danses Sacrée et Profane; Sarabande