Classical reviews

Nigel Keay: Music for Small Groups. Blumlein CD.

Mozart Fellow at Otago University (1986-7), Keay has been established in Paris since 1998. This CD was recently recorded (some in the New Zealand ambassador's residence) and supported by the NZ-France Friendship Fund. It has five interesting and effective works, played by musicians including Keay himself on viola in Terrestrial Mirror (2004), along with flute and harp, and also in Adagietto Antique (2009), another trio with clarinet and piano. His daughter Charmian Keay, an Otago graduate violinist now studying in London, is among those playing String Quartet No.2 (1995). Visconti Variations (2008) employs violin and viola duo. A theme from Keay's 1992 one-act opera At the Hawk's Well is nicely developed into Variations (2001) for piano trio. (Sales via www.nigelkeay.com.)

Highlight: serious music, melodic, using complex harmonic textures.


Puccini Passion. Cheryl Barker (soprano), State Orchestra of Victoria. Melba CD.

Sub-titled "The Richard Bonynge Edition" this 2002 disc is re-released, digitally remastered and now in SACD hybrid surround sound. It comes too in luxury pack with excellent booklet. Bonynge's wife was Dame Joan Sutherland and here he conducts another talented soprano from across the Tasman with the Australian orchestra.

Barker has a sweetly vibrant lyric voice, expressive of dramatic emotions. She is heard in some of the most popular arias from Manon Lescaut, Tosca, La Boheme, and Madama Butterfly, as well as some lesser-known operas, ending the verismo recital with two little-known Puccini treasures, the graceful songs E l'uccellino and Sole e amore. Passion abounds, as the title promises. Strong characterisation as Mimi, Angelica and Manon particularly impresses.

Highlight: Mimi in full cry (tracks 5-7).


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