Although it gets top billing, Argento's Casa Guidi shares this album with two equally substantial works: his Capriccio for clarinet & orchestra and In Praise of Music. All three have waited many years for their recording premieres, and so they seem less fresh to new-music ears than they would have back in the late '70s and mid-'80s. But Argento has never been about innovation; he is a lyrical composer at heart, and that aspect of his muse is the driving force behind this album. Frederica Von Stade brings years of experience with Casa Guidi songs to this recording, and her subtle sense of character is essential to the success of the songs, which sometimes meander. The two most striking are "The Italian Cook and the English Maid," which brings the servants to life in orchestral Technicolor; and "Robert Browning," which captures the writer's wonderment at being so loved by her husband movingly. The Cappriccio is an entertaining work, given a fine performance by clarinetist Burt Hara. The second movement, which takes its title from Gioachino Rossini's "Une saresse à ma femme," is an expressive gem -- probably the best-crafted single movement on the album. Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra take center stage for In Praise of Music, which was composed for the orchestra's 75th anniversary. Each of the seven "songs" has a distinct orchestration, meant to showcase a different group of musicians within the larger ensemble. Some of them are brilliantly evocative, such as "The fifth song: for the angel, ISRAFEL," which is based on an Arabian street song. The second "song" is notable for including Argento's own transcription of Greek musical notation from the second century B.C. Throughout this work, and the entire album, Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra play with color and sensitivity.
AllMusic Review by Allen Schrott
|Casa Guidi: Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her Sister, songs (5) for mezzo-soprano & orchestra|
|Capriccio for clarinet & orchestra ("Rossini in Paris")|
|In Praise of Music, songs (7) for orchestra|