Notes and Editorial Reviews
It's asked so often that it as become a cliché: How did Dominick Argento build an international reputation based in the Upper Midwest "heartland"? Because of the beauty of the music and the excellence of Reference Recordings' production, this release demands the question be reversed: How could Argento not have enjoyed such a career when he can compose like this? The Minnesota Orchestra commissioned In Praise of Music for its 75th anniversary. In organizing the composition Argento adapted themes from around the world and from as far back in history as music is notated. The result is dazzlingly diverse as it moves from Japanese court music to Tunisian street music (and other equally
unlikely juxtapositions) seemingly without effort.
British conductor Neville Marriner hooked Argento up with Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade to produce another Minnesota Orchestra commission, Casa Guidi, in 1983. Argento, who favors prose writings for his texts, used letters written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her sister in England. They describe the Brownings' idyllic family life in an apartment at Casa Guidi, Florence, Italy. Von Stade has sung the cycle often, usually in Argento's piano-accompanied or chamber scoring. By now, she virtually becomes Elizabeth when she sings it, and after a major career of more than 30 years there is negligible diminution of her vocal powers. The recorded performance (using the original large-orchestra scoring) begs to be described as "definitive", capturing a supreme vocal artist near her peak in her most characteristic repertoire.
Argento wrote the 1986 Capriccio for Clarinet & Orchestra on commission from the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra for its principal clarinetist. Argento says he did not dare give his concerto the same name as Mozart's Concerto for clarinet and orchestra, mostly because of that masterwork's sublime slow movement. Subtitled "Rossini in Paris", Capriccio takes its moods (but not any themes) from three of the piano pieces Rossini called Sins of My Old Age. Although light-hearted, the Capriccio is a substantial and virtuosic full-scale concerto, and its slow movement is lovely enough to be worthy of Mozart's example. The orchestra's principal clarinetist, Burt Hara, gives an exciting and good-humored performance.
The disc is welcome as part of the re-launch of Reference Recordings. Not just for modern clarinet fans or vocal fanciers, this beautiful-sounding, award-winning HDCD represents the state of the art in standard CD production, surpassing in tonal depth and naturalness a majority of the SACDs I have heard. Highly recommended.
--Joseph Stevenson, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Casa Guidi by Dominick Argento
Frederica Von Stade (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1983; USA
Length: 21 Minutes 39 Secs.
Notes: This work received the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.
In Praise of Music by Dominick Argento
Burt Hara (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1977; USA
Length: 33 Minutes 6 Secs.
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