Benefits to Wilton Library

Since the beginning, Wilton Candlelight Concerts has benefitted the Wilton Library, enabling the Library to establish and maintain a rich classical CD collection. . In addition to making possible new additions to this collection Wilton Candlelight Concerts now also assists the Library in making available to its patrons the streaming service established by Naxos. Those interested in using this service may go to the Wilton Library’s web site, click on Digital Library and then on Naxos Music Library.

Elgar, Franck: Violin Sonatas

Midori and Robert McDonald perform two violin sonatas: Sonata for Violin and Piano in E minor, Op. 82 by Sir Edward Elgar, and
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, by César Franck. Two important late-romantic works for these instruments. Aside from the Symphony in D minor, which has become a staple of the concert hall, the Violin Sonata (1886) is Franck’s best-known work, and rightly so: It is a superb synthesis of Franck’s own uniquely rich harmonic language and thematic cyclicism and the Viennese Classical tradition that he came to hold so dear in the later stages of his career. Elgar’s Violin Sonata, written in 1919, quickly became recognized in England and throughout Europe and America for the masterpiece it is. Cast in three movements, the work features a lovely Andante — viewed as the emotional centerpiece of the work — framed by two mostly lively movements that brim with energy and color, while exhibiting a deft sense for contrast.

Albeniz, Granados, Falla: “The Classical Sound”

Three masters of dramatic Spanish music present exemplary works from their canon: El Amor Brujo, a ballet that is distinctively Andalusian in character with songs in the Andalusian dialect of the Gypsies. Translated as “Love, the Magician,” it is a dark work that concerns a young Andalusian gypsy girl called Candela. Promised to be married to another man (then a boy), her affections were then directed to another, Carmelo. After many years Candela’s husband has died (at the hands of Lucía’s husband) but he continues to haunt his wife. Albeniz’ Suite Española, as orchestrated by this CD’s conductor, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, is a series of characteristic Spanish dances from nine areas, including Cuba. The Intermezzo from Granados’ Goyescas is an orchestral excerpt taken from the short opera of the same name, better known from the transcription for piano that made it world famous.

Luka Foss Plays Foss

Ever since his early days as a musical “wunderkind,” Lukas Foss showed himself to be one of that rare breed — an all-around musician, enjoying equally stellar reputations as a composer, conductor, pianist, educator, and spokesman for his art. In “Foss Plays Foss” he performs on piano, joined by Rosemary Alvino (Mezzo Soprano) and Philippe Quint (Violin). Tracks include: Excerpts from the opera “Griffelkin”, Fantasy Rondo for Piano, and Central Park Reel. Mr. Foss’ compositions prove that a love for the past can be reconciled with all sorts of innovations. Whether the musical language is serial, aleatoric, neoclassic or minimalist, the “real” Lukas Foss is always present. The essential feature in his music is the tension, so typical of the 20th century, between tradition and new modes of music expression.

Friml: Rose Marie and The Vagabond King

Two of the most famous operettas that took hold of America in the last century, both Rose Marie and The Vagabond King show a delightful exuberance in celebration of life as only the world of operetta can provide. Loosely based on the life of Fran&cced;ois Villon, 12th century poet of Paris, The Vagabond King is a sentimentalized view of Villon’s career (further based on the 1901 novel, “If I Were King,”). Using the king-for-a-day theme, it allowed Villon to defeat France’s enemies and win the hand of an aristocratic lady, all in under 24 hours. Using an unusually large orchestra, and originally in 4 acts, it was an ambitious evening in the theater, and here is presented as generous highlights, including the numbers “Love Is Like A Bubble In Our Glasses.” “Song Of The Vagabonds,” and “Only A Rose.” Rose-Marie, which was co-composed with Herbert Stothart, and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, was equally famous, taking place in the Canadian Rockies, featuring “Indian Love Call,” the number made popular by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in the 1940’s.

Delius’ North Country Sketches, In a Summer Garden, more

A matchlessly idiomatic performance, with Beecham at his best. He gets the first section (“Autumn, the wind soughs in the trees”) off to a delightfully misty beginning. One would be hard pressed to imagine the desolation and solitude of the Yorkshire moors much better characterized. Beecham’s careful dynamic gradations register well and the lonely feel of the piece is highly palpable. This CD also includes a complete 1952 recording of “Appalachia.” Beecham probably knew it better than anyone, and after a rather plain, possibly too-relaxed introduction, he portrays all 14 variations with great sensitivity. Delius’ vividly impressionistic “North Country Sketches” is the more attractive work, though, and Beecham is still in a league of his own.

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Dukas Opera: Ariane et Barbe-Bleue

This French-impressionist work will remind listeners of both Wagner and Debussy. Taken from a play by Maeterlinck–who wrote Pelleas et Melisande–only 20 bars of music are given to Bluebeard; this is an opera about his feminist wife, Ariane, who discovers his former wives behind the locked doors and attempts to free them. (Melisande is one of them.) They decide to stay. The work is exquisitely scored for large orchestra and is all-of-a-piece: a psychological drama with great color. The role of Ariane is difficult and long. Soprano Lori Phillips (the role is normally taken by a mezzo) is up to the task, singing with expression and urgency if not very lovely tone in the more tender passages. Best is Patricia Bardon in the second-largest role, that of Ariane’s Nurse. Dukas’s orchestration demands great playing and Leon Botstein and the BBC Symphony supply it. This is a unique work, and this performance is rewarding. –Robert Levine

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Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore Opera DVD

Donizetti’s comedy translates to “The Elixir of Love” — and is his most popular opera only after “Lucia di Lammermoor.” The gorgeous Russian superstar Anna Netrebko is Adina; she executes endless streams of coloratura with beautiful tone and ease, and is truly alert and appealing. Villazón is a remarkably versatile tenor and he puts his individual stamp on everything he does. The two share a one-minute-long kiss that has the audience erupting in applause. Bass Ildebrando d’Arcangelo makes a nicely snide, mellifluous, younger-than-usual quack Dr. Dulcamara.

Villazon makes everything the bumpkin Nemorino says and does seem spontaneous. With his mop-top hair and big eyes he seems to be channeling Harpo, Chico, and Chaplin at once. He’s a born ham–he juggles three pieces of fruit while singing one aria–and he offers one of the most delightful portrayals of the role ever. A real treat.

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Delibes’ Lakmé

For all its exotically tinged, trademark Orientalism, so fashionable in late-19th-century France, Delibe’s opera Lakmé is at heart a simple story of tragically misplaced love. This marvelous and sensitively wrought interpretation renders the intensity of that love story with a surprising emotional credibility. Conductor Michel Plasson allows the music’s arching melodies to breathe and unfold leisurely, like a lovingly cultivated floral display. Natalie Dessay gives a jewel-like performance, full of stunningly shaped phrases and tapered notes that sound like spun silk and offers substance where others are satisfied with mere vocal beauty, conveying both the fatal innocence of her character and an intense capacity to suffer. Gregory Kunde portrays the English interloper Gerald with moving tenderness, while he manages the high tessitura of the part with elegance and flexibility. –Thomas May

Recommended. Check Availability.

Carnaval, by Canadian Brass

Specially arranged for the Canadian Brass by members Chris Coletti and Brandon Ridenour, Schumann’s monumental keyboard works, Carnaval and Kinderszenen, are given breathtaking, and reverential, performances. Carnaval once again displays the ability of the Canadian Brass to adapt uniquely virtuosic works to their own unique virtuosic skills – the result being a fresh, rewarding, and entirely legitimate interpretation of a masterwork.

“These arrangements preserve the musical heart of the work – not just the melodies, rhythms and harmonies, but character and mood – while adding colors that the piano, even in the hands of the greatest virtuoso, can only hint at.” — Chuck Daellenbach, founding member of the Canadian Brass.

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Journeys: Emerson String Quartet

    Branching out from their more mainstream repertoire, the Emerson Quartet has programmed two out-of-the-box pieces for Journeys. Augmented by violist Paul Newbauer and cellist Colin Carr, the album juxtaposes two late-Romantic string sextets, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence and Arnold Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht.

    Despite its title, Souvenir de Florence was actually only partially composed while Tchaikovsky was in Italy. Its Italian influence can be heard in the lyrical melodies of the slow movement, but a strong Germanic structure and a Russian spirit also permeate the work. In this sense, the piece embodies a physical journey throughout the musical landscape of Europe, which, as technology and industry increased, began to feel smaller and smaller. The piece seems to be trying to negotiate the colliding musical worlds and the changing views on structure and harmony of the time.

    The playing, as to be expected from the Emerson String Quartet, is highly detailed, passionate, and technically flawless. Their playing emphasizes the similarity between these pieces, leaning on the more dissonant passages of Souvenir de Florence and bringing out the warm sonorities of Verklärte Nacht in an attempt to have them meet closer to the middle.

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Violin Lullabies, works by Shubert, Brahms, Ravel & more

The world’s first lullabies were simple songs sung or hummed by parents cradling their infants and rocking them to sleep. After the birth of violinist Rachel Barton Pine’s first child in 2011 she could find no existing collection of classical violin lullaby scores or recordings, so she set about gathering sheet music from libraries around the world and recording her own versions with pianist Matthew Hagle. Familiar tunes and new discoveries intertwine in this sweet, timely release celebrating the beauty of new life and parenthood.

Violin virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine’s exceptional and lovely new CD does not disappoint. It begins with the famous Brahms Lullaby and includes more well-known melodies along with lesser known melodies.

Recommended Check Availability.

Basically Bull, Allen Feinberg, virtuoso keyboard works

Of all the great English composers of this period, it is John Bull who stands out as the most maniacal keyboard virtuoso.

“While others provided popular tunes and simple dances for the new instrument called the “virginal,” John Bull offered up experimental, challenging works, pieces that exuberantly overstepped conventional musical expectations. Fashioning a group of these works to function in concert and translating them to the wildly different timbre of the modern piano has been an exciting venture into the 16th- and 17th-century avant-garde. Bull’s music is brimming with invention and inspiration, power and passion.”
– Alan Feinberg

“Feinberg translates the exquisite chromatic ruminations and intricate counterpoint of Bull’s keyboard works, and some contemporaries, into the lush sound world of the modern piano. … It is a mark of Mr. Feinberg’s skill that playfulness, along with grace and exuberance, characterize his performances of these 400-year-old miniatures even though their technical demands are of a sort rarely encountered until the 20th century.” – The New York Times

Recommended Check Availability.

Jack Beeson’s opera, Lizzie Borden

While the gruesome story of Lizzie Borden has been dramatized several times, this 1965 opera by Jack Beeson has been revived recently, to much acclaim. Featuring Brenda Lewis and Richard Krause, Conductor Anton Coppola draws a lyrical but creepy performance of this modern work.

Based on the infamous Fall River, Massachusetts crime of 1890, the opera tells the story of Andrew Borden and his second wife, Abbie, who were found hacked to death, and the daughter who became the main suspect. She is acquitted of committing both murders, but is shunned by her community. Children circle the house, mocking her. She lives out the rest of her life in her father’s house.

Veering from the historical facts–when indeed, few facts are verifiable–Kenward Elmslie’s libretto spins a harrowing tale that is an unusual evening in the theater.

Highly recommended. Check Availability.

Mark Blitzstein’s Opera REGINA

Of all Marc Blitzstein’s theater works, Threepenny Opera, his translation of the Brecht/Weill collaboration, and his opera Regina (1949), are best known. Long considered a Holy Grail recording by musical theatre enthusiasts, the 1958 NYCO cast album of Marc Blitzstein‘s Regina has been released by Masterworks Broadway for the first time since its LP release. Based on Lillian Hellman’s play The Little Foxes, Regina is a melodramatic study of an avaricious, desperate Southern aristocracy in decline.

Highly recommended. Check availability.