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SoundS of AmeRicA

allows the music’s flow, and for the sweet tone of her 1757 JB Guadagnini. Known for two serious CDs with fanciful titles, ‘Alone’ and ‘Late Dates with Mozart’, Sant’Ambrogio is one of those artists who reminds you of just how filled with light a piece of music can be.

These players’ approach is especially successful in the C minor Trio, with its longer phrases (like the extraordinary opening bars) and more complex (for Mendelssohn) emotional state. They get it particularly right in the Andante espressivo, which is reminiscent of the great Heifetz-Piatigorsky recording where the inseparable friends made the purest of sounds, allowing themselves and the music an interlude of beauty that is beyond ego.

The Song Without Words, which the Trio play in Hans Sitt’s arrangement, is all that we think of when Mendelssohn comes to mind. As Jeffrey Sykes says in his enjoyable booklet-notes, ‘the slow movements of the trios themselves are songs without words in all but name’. Laurence Vittes

Mozart Mozart Concerto for two Pianos, K365. sonata for two Pianos, K448. adagio and Fugue, K546/K426. larghetto and allegro in E flat Joshua Pierce, Dorothy Jonas pfs Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra / Paul Freeman MsR Classics M Ms1390 (64’ • DDD)

Mozart ‘doubles’ from Pierce and Jonas Mozart composed less than a handful of pieces for two pianos, starting with the concerto he performed with his older sister, Nannerl. He also wrote a sonata (a seminal piece in the duo-piano repertory) and an Adagio and Fugue that were composed at different times but later paired.

Pianists Pierce and Jonas end their recording of the Mozart works for two pianos with a curiosity: a searching Larghetto followed by a sprightly Allegro that Mozart left incomplete but which others finished. The version on this disc melds careful editing by Pierce with bits of completions by Franz Beyer and Paul Badura-Skoda. The result is a cohesive and stylish tribute to Mozart.

The Concerto K365 receives a delightful treatment as Pierce and Jonas interact with seamless vibrancy. The pianists apply fine rhythmic propulsion to the quick outer movements, passing lines deftly from one to the other, knowing exactly when to predominate and when to lend support. In the slow movement, they’re keenly sensitive to the music’s serene beauty, and conductor Paul Freeman and the Slovak Philharmonic

Orchestra are elegant colleagues. Something of an acoustical jolt occurs between the ambience of the live concerto performance in Bratislava and the studio environment at SUNY Purchase, where the other pieces were recorded. What was slightly distant in the concerto becomes crystal-clear in the music for two pianos alone. Pierce and Jonas are as assured, refined and articulate in these intimate scores as they are in the grander orchestral world. Donald Rosenberg

‘Sing Freedom!’ Traditional ain’‑a that good news!. Been in de storm/Wayfaring stranger. a city called heaven. hard trials. hold on!. Freedom song. I got a home in‑a dat rock. lily of the valley. Motherless Child. My God is a rock. Oh graveyard (lay this body down). Plenty good room (on the glory train). soon ah will be done. soon ah will be done/I wanna die easy. steal away. swing low, sweet chariot. Walk together, children Conspirare; Company of Voices / Craig Hella Johnson harmonia Mundi F Í hMu80 7525 (72’ • DDD)

texas choir Conspirare turn from howells to spirituals Church choirs, especially in African American parishes, tend to transport listeners to another world when they sink their voices into those songs of suffering and praise known as spirituals. In many cases, so do professional choruses such as Conspirare, which transfixes you in this new recording.

Based in Austin, Texas, Conspirare devotes most of its time to classical repertoire. Here, artistic director Craig Hella Johnson and his Company of Voices apply the same expressive depth and technical sophistication to a treasure trove of spirituals in old and new arrangements by such diverse figures as Moses Hogan, William Dawson, Leonard De Paur, David Lang, Tarik O’Regan and Sir Michael Tippett. The disc also introduces stirring original works by Robert Kyr (‘Freedom Song’, a bold chant with drums) and Kirby Shaw (the exultant ‘Plenty good room (on the glory train)’).

As shaped by Johnson, the performances capture the urgent and plaintive power that makes these pieces so moving. The passages of quiet intensity are sung at a hush, but with every harmony and phrase clearly delineated. When the music requires stentorian attack, the singers come close to blowing the roof off whatever space you happen to inhabit, while never losing tonal focus.

The episode at the end of ‘Walk together, children’ when the women swoop upward and the men make a matching descent is something magnificent to behold. But everything on this disc is bound to rivet you to your seat, when you’re not grooving on the outpouring of choral joy. Donald Rosenberg

‘The Queen: Music for Elizabeth I’ Anonymous lord Willoughby. Essex last Good‑ night. When dasies pied. Ring out your bels. Nuttmigs and Ginger. In Eighty‑eight Bennet all creatures now Byrd the Queenes alman Campion Wooe her and win her. Where are all thy beauties now? Corkine Each lovely grace Dowland/Allison time stands still. the lady Frances sidneys almayne Dowland his golden locks. say love if ever thou didst find. Can she excuse my wrongs Van Eyck Courant, of harte diefje waerom zoo stil Johnson the Queenes treble Morley O Mistris mine. the sacred End Pavin. Fly love Pilkington With fragrant flowers Tomkins see, see the shepheards queene Toronto Consort / David Fallis Marquis M MaRQuIs81387 (64’ • DDD)

tributes to Elizabeth I from Fallis’s toronto ensemble All hail ‘The Queen’, the newest recording from the Toronto Consort, which pays alluring tribute to Elizabeth I in pieces she inspired, enjoyed and possibly even played. The repertoire is varied and rich, full of love ballads, patriotic songs and witty tunes rubbing shoulders with elegant instrumental pieces.

Her Majesty had the privilege of living during the rich artistic period when Shakespeare and Marlowe conjured theatrical gold, and composers such as Dowland, Campion and Morley were part of the royal circle. Those composers are represented here, as are others of less renown, along with the most prolific figure of all time, Anonymous. Their creations salute the Queen and document famous events of the time, including the woeful tale of the Earl of Essex.

Among the pieces that must have tickled Elizabeth is ‘When dasies pied’, a lilting narrative for soprano and echoing cuckoo. The 43rd year of the queen’s reign is marked in the jaunty ‘Ring out your bels’, while all manner of tender and animated works associated in some way with Elizabeth are part of the delectable menu.

As led by its artistic director, David Fallis, the Toronto Consort lavishes luminous clarity, lightness and vitality on the music. The singers bring crisp enunciation to the texts and are not afraid to highlight the lusty qualities in several of the selections. Amid the songs, the period instrumentalists evoke delicate and rousing sounds that the queen, in all probability, would have relished. Donald Rosenberg gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE NOVEMBER 2011 XIII

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