Violin soloist and La Pietà leader Angèle Dubeau wanted to make the "strong emotions" that embody the meaning of "passion" the theme of a recording--and so she did, drawing on some of the repertoire's more overtly sensual, heartfelt, hot-blooded, sultry, and romantically-charged constituents, from Bizet's Carmen and Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody to Sarasate's Navarra and Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. As on this group's previous releases--Infernal Violins (type Q7405 in Search Reviews) and Let's Dance (type Q6050)--Dubeau lets fly her unfettered virtuosity as soloist extraordinaire, aided in no small part by her exceptionally talented all-female string-orchestra colleagues and in most selections by superbRead more arrangements created by the ensemble's pianist Louise-Andrée Baril, including Bloch's Nigun, Falla's Siete Canciones, and Stephen Foster's "Jeanie with the light brown hair". Although the focus mostly is on Dubeau--and she deserves the attention for her riveting stylistic flair and impressive technical prowess--there is an overall ensemble cohesiveness and spirit that informs every piece, and the prevailing highly charged group interaction that seems to direct the performances tells you that the best way to experience this group must be in a live concert setting.
You're impressed with the sheer intensity of activity and energy that colors every note and phrase, and although you know most or all of this music--either from its initial incarnations or (for better or worse) from countless previous arrangements and realizations--La Pietà's versions stand out for their idiomatic appropriateness and for the way they capture the style of the originals. And let's not underestimate the pure entertainment value of the performances, which after all seems to be a major part of this group's mission. You don't opt for flashy, virtuoso violin playing for relaxation purposes, and believe me, when you listen to this fabulous CD, you'll find it hard to concentrate on anything but listening! My only complaint is that the recording is cast in an overly reverberant acoustic that not only sounds artificial--those strings just sound too huge for comfort!--but also gives a sort of microphone-enhanced pop sensibility to music and performances that just don't need this kind of artificial boost. [2/22/2005]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less