Tafelmusik | Italian Oratorios

The best Tibetan bells are made of six metals including silver and gold. Countertenor Matthew White’s voice soars over Tafelmusik’s organlike tones in Zelenka’s majestic Gesu al Calvaria, on wings clear as silver, rich as gold. White’s natural vibrato and his technical control ride with ease over the ornate soundscape of this elegant, majestic composition that ranges over moods from triumph to wistful desolation to liveliness.

Vivaldi’s difficult Juditha triumphans, the tale of the Jewish woman who saves her people by assassinating the tyrant Holofernes in his tent, brings out a higher-energy passion in White, and a more individual or personal voice. This piece has him singing melodies of outstanding beauty.

Cain overo Il primo omicidio by Alessandro Scarlatti also is a dramatization of a solo figure, this time the tortured fratricide, the biblical Cain. White realizes what may be the countertenor’s natural inclination for voicing the sound of pain in isolation and exaltation in loneliness. The composition is structured but not much ornamented, slow, flowing, and gentle-voiced. Cain’s farewell aria as he goes into exile, “Miei genitori, addio”, is particularly touching.

Tafelmusik, directed by Jean Lamon, is luminous throughout as White’s accompaniment, and shines on its own in Vivaldi's String Concerto in C major. There is a 13 track bonus compilation CD selected from previous Analekta releases, including a Handel aria by contralto-extraordinaire Marie-Nicole Lemieux whose CD won this year’s Juno in the vocal category, and Fritz Kreisler's "Liebeslied", performed by première Canadian violinist James Ehnes, also a 2005 Juno nominee. The sound engineering is outstanding. As for baroque-repertoire vocalism, or countertenor singing, I can't say where you’d have to go to hear better.

Stanley Fefferman for The Live Music Report

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