Menotti: Violin Concerto; Muero porque no muero; Llama de Amor Viva; For the Death of Orpheus

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COMPOSERS: Menotti
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Muero porque no muero; Llama de Amor Viva; For the Death of Orpheus
PERFORMER: Jennifer Koh (violin), Julia Melinek (soprano), Jamie MacDougall (tenor), Stephen Roberts (baritone); Spoleto Festival Choir & Orchestra/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 99 79
The Violin Concerto opens with an idea, swaying between major and minor, that is strangely reminiscent of Walton’s Viola Concerto, while the more vigorous passages have strong echoes of Prokofiev. Add to that the sort of lyricism that you find in the Violin Concerto by Menotti’s friend Samuel Barber, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. It’s all expertly written, and attractively played, but don’t expect any startlingly original revelations. The three cantatas show where Menotti’s real skill (and, I reckon, his heart) lies – in writing gratefully and idiomatically for voices. Muero porque no muero follows the poetry of St Teresa of Avila with a sinuous, Spanish-inflected line: would that Julia Melinek’s words were clearer and her vibrato less intrusive. Alas, the same stricture about vibrato (though not verbal clarity) applies to the other two soloists: Stephen Roberts in Llama de Amor Viva, a robust setting of St John of the Cross; and Jamie MacDougall in For the Death of Orpheus, which begins astringently and ends with a gorgeous tune, sensuously harmonised. The chorus and orchestra from the festival that Menotti has run for over 40 years respond wholeheartedly under the direction of Richard Hickox. Martin Cotton

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