Thanks in part to her two recent EMI recital discs of the music of Handel and Rossini, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, 41, has been acknowledged as one of today's pre-eminent mezzo coloraturas. Blessed with an ideally flexible, beautiful voice and a stellar technique that includes a perfect trill, she is in demand throughout the world for a wide variety of lyric mezzo and mezzo coloratura roles.
English baritone Benjamin Luxon remains prized for the intelligence of his portrayals, and his unfettered directness of expression. Now 72, and devoting much of his time to theater, Luxon came to fame as a member of Benjamin Britten's English Opera Group. After creating the title role in Britten's Owen Wingrave, he proceeded to perform a wide variety of roles in many of the world's leading houses.
World-renowned studio mastering engineer Steve Hoffman is currently working on the re-mastering and re-release of many legendary rock and pop titles including classic Nat King Cole albums on SACD and 45 RPM vinyl for Acoustic Sounds/Analogue Productions and 24 Karat Gold CDs (The Doors, Linda Ronstadt, The Pretenders, Alice Cooper, etc.) for Audio Fidelity (among others).
For over 50 years, pianist Menahem Pressler's name has been indelibly associated with the Beaux Arts Trio. As the founder of the trio, it is Pressler's pianism that is the constant in the trio's over 50 benchmark recordings of Schubert, Brahms, Beethoven, and other great composers.
On June 12, 2009, the English early music choral ensemble Stile Antico made its much-anticipated U.S. debut at the Boston Early Music Festival. The entire concert debut was recorded by NPR, and can be heard online.
After Stile Antico won the 2005 Early Music Network International Young Artists' Competition, the young ensemble's debut disc for Harmonia Mundi, Music for Compline, won the Diapason d'Or, Choc du Monde de la Musique, and a Grammy Award nomination. Their second disc, Heavenly Harmonies, received the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik and another Diapason d'Or. Attention from NPR, and a tour with Sting in Europe and the Far East in support of his Dowland lute song project, Songs from the Labyrinth, elevated them into company rare for an early music ensemble, and helped project their most recent CD, Song of Songs, into the Top 15 of the Billboard Classical Chart.
In anticipation of Stile Antico's U.S. debut, I spoke by phone with one of the group's founding members, towering bass Olly Hunt. Chief among my queries was the genesis of the group's marvelously fresh, oft-sensual sound.
On February 8, 2009, the Pacifica Quartet snared a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance for their Naxos recording of Elliot Carter's first and fifth string quartets. Three days later, I was on the phone, interviewing the quartet second violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson for a series of articles.
"I'm afraid that if you took the violin away from me, I wouldn't be able to breathe"
When my editor at American Record Guide learned that I was about to interview Vadim Gluzman, he was jealous beyond belief. Having just listened to Gluzman's latest recording, an acoustically superior hybrid SACD on the BIS label of violin concertos by Tchaikovsky and Glazunov, he was astounded by Gluzman's virtuosity and musicianship.
In the spring of 2008, Bay Area resident Frederica von Stade and I had an extended phone conversation. The ostensible purpose was her forthcoming participation in the U. S. premiere of a unique salon, Pauline Viardot and Friends.
It's the special qualities of Karrin Alysson's instantly recognizable, slightly hoarse vocalism that set her apart. Her careful attention to words, the phrases molded with an intelligence that declares her total involvement, the impeccable pianism that illuminates a good share of her performances, and her overarching desire to tell a story all unite to pull listeners into her songs. Whether she's singing about poet Robert Frost or a lover's embrace, the warmth, depth, and honesty of Alysson's artistry catapults her into the same august company as three of her jazz idols, Carmen McCrae, Nancy Wilson, and Dinah Washington.
If you've never heard of mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle, by all means read on. To say she is a hoot to interview is a major understatement. Castle, long a member of New York City Opera, has of late become associated with leading and character roles in contemporary opera, as well as the French repertoire. She is certainly a character and a half over the phone.