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The WholeNote
5 juin 2015

Fratres is the new CD from ATMA celebrating 30 years of the Quebec chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy, founded in 1984 by conductor Bernard Labadie (ACD2 3015). Over the years the group has released close to 30 CDs, mostly on the Dorian, Virgin Classics, Naïve, Hyperion, Erato and Analekta labels; since 2004 there have been eight CDs on the Quebec ATMA label, and it is from that catalogue that this self-styled compilation sampler has been put together. Sampler CDs, with their mixture of single extracted movements and short complete pieces, can tend to be less than satisfying in some respects, but the very high performance standards here together with the lovely recording quality and the choice of titles makes this a very attractive release.

The title track is a previously unreleased 2008 recording of the Arvo Pärt composition, featuring violinist Pascale Giguère. There’s a beautiful performance of the Mozart concert aria Chi’ omi scordi di te? by soprano Karina Gauvin, who is also featured in a performance of Britten’s Now sleeps the crimson petal and – along with countertenor Daniel Taylor – in an extract from Bach’s Tilge, Hochster, meine Sünden. There’s a movement from Bartók’s Divertimento, Gluck’s Ballet des Ombres heureuses, Mozart’s Overture to Lucio Silla, Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, a brief Rameau piece and Astor Piazzolla’s Milonga del Angel. Oh – and the Pachelbel Canon. Bet you weren’t expecting that. Labadie conducts most of the tracks; Jean-Marie Zeitouni conducts all but one of the remaining five.

The WholeNote

18 avril 2015

ATMA Classique reissues a particularly impressive approach to Mozart’s K. 626
For those who cannot get enough of listening to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 626 setting of the Requiem Mass text, there is no shortage of recorded options. As of this morning, typing “mozart requiem” into the CDs & Vinyl category on Amazon.com yielded 1198 hits. Indeed, the number of options is so large that, once you get as far as typing “mozart req,” Amazon is already prompting you for a more specific completion. Most of these involve last names of conductors; but I was particularly pleased to see “levin” as one recommendation, referring to recordings of the scholarly edition prepared by Robert D. Levin through his efforts to complete the work that death prevented Mozart from completing. Those who opt for adding Levin’s name to the Amazon search will be rewarded with 85 hits.

Faced with such abundance, the decision to reissue a recording of K. 626 is a bold commitment that this recording should not vanish from public attention. I felt this way in 2011 when I wrote about the Sacred Music & Opera box of 11 CDs in the EMI anthology of recordings of concerts performances of the Munich Philharmonic conducted by Sergiu Celibidache. The score that Celibidache used as, for the better part of my life, the only performing edition, the completion of Mozart’s score by Franz Xaver Süssmayr at the request of Mozart’s widow, Constanze. However, I would sometimes prefer it over more recent scholarly efforts just because of Celibidache’s consummate expressiveness as a conductor.

This past Tuesday, however, the Canadian ATMA Classique label reissued Dorian’s 2002 release of a Levin edition performance featuring the conductor Bernard Labadie leading his ensemble known as Les Violons du Roy. The vocal soloists are soprano Karina Gauvin, mezzo Marie-Nicole Lemieux, tenor John Tessier, and bass-baritone Nathan Berg; and the choir is La Chapelle de Québec. This recording was significant for extra-musical reasons.

The recording sessions took place in Troy, New York in the week following September 11, 2001. It is hard to imagine that anyone involved in those sessions, engineers as well as performers, was not working in the shadow of that recent catastrophe. Labadie himself acknowledged the connection in an introductory note that accompanied the release, and that acknowledgement has been included as part of the reissue.

Nevertheless, this recording is just as important for musical reasons. Here in my home town of San Francisco, Labadie has been a frequent visitor to the podium of the San Francisco Symphony; and his interpretations of Mozart, which have included sacred selections, have always been impressive. Thus, this is a recording by a conductor particularly attuned to taking a historically informed approach to Mozart and doing so, in this case, by drawing upon Levin’s scholarly research. The result is a particularly moving emotional interpretation, whose impact comes not from milking every gesture for what it is worth but from taking Mozart on his own terms (or Levin’s best efforts to reconstruct those terms) and letting the music speak for itself.

This may not be “the latest word on Mozart;” but ATMA Classique definitely deserves credit for keeping this recording in circulation.
Stephen Smoliar - Examiner.com