Claron McFadden

Klaas TenHolt: Bovary Chante; Sonate

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins

Klaas Ten Holt's song cycle Bovary Chante is the work of a composer with a mastery of vocal writing and creating drama in music. The texts of the eight songs, by Carel Alpenhaar, are derived from Flaubert's novel and chronicle Emma Bovary's emotional descent toward suicide. Scored for string quartet, cimbalom, and soprano, the songs use deceptively simple, mostly tonal material, but Ten Holt deploys his forces with immense skill so that by the last two songs the tension is practically unbearable. He uses the cimbalom judiciously, and its wide range of colors and timbres subtly expands the expressive possibilities of the quartet, creating a sound quite unlike any other. Ten Holt's vocal writing is virtuosic, not because of disjunct leaps that characterize some modernist vocal lines, but because of its demand for the most lyrical bel canto delivery over an outrageously broad range. The closing notes of the cycles are stratospheric, but soprano Claron McFadden nails them with absolute assurance, perfect intonation, and piercing clarity. Her performance throughout is dazzling in its focus, purity, and psychological insight. The Mondriaan Quartet and cimbalom player Michiel Weidner play with an intensity that matches McFadden's. It's too bad there aren't more cimbalom players around -- this is a cycle that deserves to be well known. Ten Holt's Sonate for solo violin is also a hugely attractive piece. It takes Baroque forms (and some Baroque melodic and harmonic patterns) as its basis, so it has an accessible surface, but its development of the material is inventively contemporary. Joan Berkhemer plays with emotional depth, virtuoso showmanship, and flawless technique. This beautifully performed disc should be of strong interest to fans of new music that forges an innovative path that's independent of both strict modernism and postmodernism.

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