JUAN DIEGO FLOREZ \nUna Furtiva Lagrima \nDonizetti & Bellini Arias \nOrchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, cond. Frizza Decca 473 440-2 \nIt's rather unusual for tenors to record selections from "bel canto" operas -- it's something more often left to sopranos. The florid yet smoothly-flowing vocal writing that characterized this early 19th century style favored women, especially when their characters were deranged by being abandoned in love and were given arias of staggering versatility to express the extremity of their emotion. The Romantics were in love with madness. The sanity of the rational mind didn't know the half of it, they believed. \nPerhaps the insane had access to a higher wisdom that the rest of us could aspire to, a point of view readily adopted by today's drug-fueled youth cultures. \nThe Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez, still only 30, has a very alluring voice. It's light, romantic, and thrilling at the top of his register. He specializes in Donizetti, Rossini and Bellini roles, and says he hasn't even had to consider singing in the more heroic, powerful style normally required by Verdi (though he specializes in singing Fenton in Falstaff). \n"Bel canto" is now back in operatic fashion, and Juan Diego Florez is the man to fit the moment. \nAlso striking on this fine CD is the strong showing by brass instruments. \nThe Milan orchestra's trumpets blare brilliantly and its trombones mourn woefully. The recording is also available in SACD format. \nVIKTORIA MULLOVA \nBeethoven & Mendelssohn Violin Concertos \nOrchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique, cond. Gardiner \nPhilips 473 872-2 \nJohn Eliot Gardiner has long been associated with "authentic" versions of classic orchestral works, ie, ones using period instruments of the kind audiences would have heard when the music was first performed. Here he is back at it again, this time with an orchestra devoted to music from the time of the French Revolution and the decades following (as its title shows). \nThis, of course, was Beethoven's era as well, but his works, so many of which aspire to stormy thunder-claps, were the first to benefit from larger orchestras and metal strings for violins, introduced to increase volume and supposed impressiveness. It's particularly interesting, then, to have the great insister's violin concerto given this authentic treatment. It benefits hugely. Nowadays, in a time of electronic amplification on every hand, no one is much impressed by acoustic volume. Beethoven's orchestral music, as a result, has begun to sound bombastic and something of a bore. On this new CD the feeling is very different, not one of Napoleonic armies rolling back frontiers but of intimacy and even delicacy. Viktoria Mullova's violin too sounds charmingly remote, sweet and thin, a sound from an antique time. The point of all this is that the music is here unpretentious, and a perceived pretentiousness is what has been putting a lot of classics-lovers off Beethoven for some years. The Mendelssohn concerto needs this treatment less, but this soft version is still worth having. Some people will think these artists overdo it -- the Romantic composers, after all, did want to impress and overwhelm. But take a listen. \nThese are recordings many people might find they are more than happy to live with. \nMISCHA MAISKY & SERGIO TIEMPO \nMendelssohn: Cello Sonatas, Variations, Songs Without Words \nDeutsche Grammophon 471 565-2 \nMendelssohn is enjoying something of a revival. For a long time he was considered too placid and happy a figure to be the equal of the rebellious geniuses thought to be typical of the artistic temperament. But now the full range of his compositions is being re-discovered. The Latvian-born cellist Mischa Maisky is so enthusiastic that he has even adapted some of his solo piano items for cello and piano duo to increase the amount of Mendelssohn's work available to him. Now 55, and looking ever more like an Old Testament patriarch, he performs here with the young Venezuelan pianist Sergio Tiempo, 29 (who gave his first public performance at the age of three). Mendelssohn was a child prodigy too, and his music retained throughout his life a child-like innocence. This pleased the 19th century public, challenged by "difficult" artists like Liszt and Wagner, and now, as we recover from shell-shocked catatonia after the assaults of an abrasive modernism, Mendelssohn seems like a pleasant oasis once again. It's true Maisky's cello sounds a touch lugubrious in some of the more light-weight adaptations, but this CD, at almost 80 minutes, is nevertheless excellent value. Both of Mendelssohn's cello sonatas are included, plus his early Variations Concertantes, penned when the cello was an instrument without its now characteristic prong and instead held tightly between the knees. \nJONI MITCHELL \nTravelogue \nProduced by Larry Klein & Joni Mitchell \nNonesuch 79817-2 \nJoni Mitchell's music can't count as classical in the usual sense, classics though her late 1960s and early 1970s songs undoubtedly are. But the treatment given a selection of her numbers on these two enhanced CDs, with their full orchestral arrangements, brings them to the verge of the category. Unfortunately this reviewer finds them unconvincing, and more than a little sad. Her early recordings were among the freshest, most poignant and inspired productions, both in words and music, of an era that saw a huge explosion of creativity in the singer-songwriter genre. The kind of elaboration these recent CDs represent can only detract from that early spring-like newness. It's true Mitchell long ago opted to move into the jazz-vocal world, and some of those later songs are reworked here as well. \nBut items featuring over-familiar words from St. Paul and the poet W.B. Yeats are weird indeed. It's a problem for any artist who experiences a youthful surge of inspiration -- what to do when it's over? There are several options, but re-recording the old masterpieces with inflated accompaniment is among the least attractive of them.
It has been 26 years since Nicholas Gould hosted his last Issues and Opinions radio show for ICRT a recording studio on Roosevelt Road. He remembers the familiar ‘whoosh’ as the door to the soundproof room closes and recognizes the carpet, but the recording equipment is gone, with half of the space being used for storage. Gould is filled with nostalgia as he greets his guests, two financial writers who are here to discuss Taiwan’s post-COVID-19 economy for his new podcast, Taiwan Matters. Gould had been thinking of revisiting his old career for a while, but being allowed access to
The 22nd Taipei Arts Festival (臺北藝術節) opens tonight with three productions, a slightly scaled-down pandemic version that seeks to keep its tradition of big ideas, challenging programs and international connections alive and moving forward in an increasingly uncertain world. The theme of this year’s festival is “Super@#S%?” — as good a term as any when descriptives and superlatives seem not only inadequate, but somewhat irrelevant in a world where so many people cannot imagine being able to return to theaters, either as performers or audience members — they are too worried about having a job and their health. Technically, however, it is
Shuanglianpi (雙連埤) is both a Hakka outpost and a place of great ecological interest. The conjoined body of water from which it gets its name is the centerpiece of the 17.16-hectare Shuanglianpi Wildlife Refuge (雙連埤野生動物保護區). No waterways of significance fill or drain this scenic lake in Yilan County’s Yuanshan Township (員山鄉). During the 1895 to 1945 period of Japanese rule, the colonial authorities — struggling to secure Taiwan’s foothills — encouraged Han people to settle in areas adjacent to indigenous communities. Around 1910, a 49-year-old Hakka pioneer called Tsou Cheng-sheng (鄒成生) from what’s now Taoyuan decided to begin farming at
Wild Sparrow (野雀之詩) is simple and extremely slow paced, told through the eyes of Han (Kao Yu-hsia, 高於夏), an introspective, shy grade schooler who lives with his great-grandmother in the verdant countryside. Han has a fascination with sparrows, which are either flying high in the sky or trapped in cages and nets, providing a constant metaphor throughout the film. In the most ironic scene, a man catches the birds just to charge people to set them free again, taking advantage of Buddhists who engage in the ritual of “releasing” animals from captivity. Han takes a badly injured sparrow home and