Thefullscore 22 BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE French perfection: Renée Fleming is sublime in Dutilleux Music to my ears What the classical world has been listening to this month Sophie Bevan soprano Recently, at a friend’s house for lunch, there was a copy of Les Baricades Mistérieuses lying open on the piano. My husband sat down and started playing. It brought tears to my eyes with its heart-rending simplicity and perfect counterpoint – each line is woven into a seamless whole. I resolved to familiarise myself with more of Couperin’s music and so I dug out a recording of Alexandre Tharaud playing his keyboard works. It has proved a wonderful starting point. I have also been getting to know the music of Dutilleux, having been asked to perform his Correspondances song cycle next year. A marvellous example of Dutilleux’s lyrical vocal writing is another of his song cycles: Le temps l’horloge, composed for soprano Renée Fleming. It is full of expression and vivid colours, and listening to Fleming’s recording it is easy to see why he chose to write it for her. ★aving just finished performing the role of Freia in Das Rheingold I now find myself hankering for more Wagner! I’ve been Couperin’s immersing myself in Daniel Barenboim’s recordings of the Ring cycle from the Bayreuth Festival. Die Walküre especially, with Sir John Tomlinson as Wotan and Dame Anne Evans as Brünnhilde, simply blows me away with its energy and sublime power. And also… Over the last few weeks I’ve started reading Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks in the brilliant translation by John E Woods. Mann so wonderfully penetrates the world of 19th-century Lübeck, reminding me of another of my favourite evocations of a place and time: George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Sophie Bevan will be appearing in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw at Garsington Opera this summer Alexander Joel conductor The 2009 recording of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly conducted by Antonio Pappano is one of my favourite recordings of opera of all time. What makes it so special is a mixture of the fantastic cast – including Angela Gheorghiu as Butterfly and Jonas Kaufmann as Pinkerton – and Pappano’s handling of the score. The tension that he manages to instil and the colours he gets out of the singers are just so perfect. The cycle of Mahler symphonies that Claudio Abbado did with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra towards the end of his life are, for me, landmark recordings. I watch them on DVD and, as well as the sound, the sight of the way Abbado conducts them is quite incredible – the way he masters the symphonies with such elegance is breathtaking. The top orchestral soloists in the world get together for that ensemble and at times it feels like a big chamber music group. It is so intimate. I remember practising Chopin’s Etudes on the piano when I was young. My father would then put on the recording of them by Vladimir Ashkenazy and, sitting in his rocking chair, would Dutilleux’s song cycle Le temps l’ horloge is full of expression and vivid colours
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