What we played, what we thought:
· Scene 5 of the one-act opera The Canterville Ghost, by Gordon Getty, after Oscar Wilde's arch novella. The scene consists in its brief entirety of a rant for the probably fraudulent title character, who haunts (or just lives in) an English castle recently taken over by insufferable rich Americans from central casting (Pentatone PTC 5186 541). Deploying lean, menacing tone and the elocution of an actor reared on the classics, the bass Matthew Treviño hones the comic bluster to a keen edge. But the family-friendly musical idiom will curl no one's hair. Not that this should matter, but yes, the composer (born in 1933) is quite a close relation of J. Paul's: his fourth child, to be exact, by his fourth wife. The recording dates to the opera's premiere in Leipzig, June 2015.
· The penultimate scene of Jane Eyre, by John Joubert(SOMM SOMMCD 263-2), wherein the creepy Rev. St. John Rivers proposes to drag the heroine to India as his wife, never mind her enduring passion for Rochester, bound in marriage though he still is to that madwoman in the attic. A Cape Town native, Joubert has been active in England for the last seven of his nine decades, broaching all the major genres in a style that registers here as conservative but by no means passé. In throwaway details as much as in the expertly orchestrated climax, he tells a gripping story . (Listen for the Rivers sisters' echo of the word "India," quivering with perplexed dismay.) Yet Jane Eyre, recorded last year in concert form at its world premiere, has lain in the drawer for twenty years. A full-dress stage production seems overdue.
· A sequence from La Favolla d'Apollo, from the album Stravaganza d'Amore!, showcasing the early-music ensemble Pygmalion, led by Raphaël Pichon (Harmonia Mundi HMM 902286.87). Stitched together from bits and pieces dating back to the Medici court ca. 1600, when opera as we know it was first taking shape, the program dazzles with lush instrumentals and singing of exquisite delicacy.
· The hymn "Ut queant laxis" ("That your servants may sing with full voice"), from Monteverdi: The Other Vespers, an anthology of early 17th-century sacred music by many hands, including (as on this track) Monteverdi's (Decca 483 1654). The performers go by the name I Fagiolini, which is to say the Green Beans, which I take to suggest their crispness and freshness. The credits are not the easiest to decipher, but the tenor soloist Nicholas Hurndall Smith (?) makes a flexible, expressive showing, as do the supporting strings and continuo.
· To close, selections from a Charles Ives program by the Seattle Symphony under Ludovic Morlot. First, the austere Civil War meditation "The 'St. Gaudens' in Boston Common (Col. Shaw and his Colored Regiment)," from Three Places in New England (Seattle Symphony Media SSM 1015). As an encore, from New England Holidays, that astounding newsreel in sound "The Fourth of July," which fades in on the town square of some Yankee backwater during the morning hush, gradually to build to the racket of the parade, with out-of-step marching bands splitting the skies with scraps of patriotic Americana.