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Yesteryear youtube comments: Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Berlioz insult Handel


Cheers ClassicFM for being inspirational for once! Yes, famous composers ignore the reply button, each comment must stand on its splendid own…

A few of Cleopatra’s deaths

drawing by nepalblue

After my last month’s flash trip to Brussels I’ve been predictably going through a ‘Cleopatre phase -> youtube was combed for various interpretations and here are some I felt compelled to say something about1:

Janet Baker – not my favourite voice (especially in the top register) but a very intelligent and emotionally vivid interpretation. It stayed with me after the music stopped. Great job on the ending.

Ketevan Kemoklidze – here’s a singer who valiantly fights the orchestra and wins. I still want a blending of the two, it shouldn’t be a contest. BF2 was saying “so what if the orchestra overpowers you for a couple of minutes?” (after a bit of thinking, I agreed – unless your aria is a couple of minutes long. But in cases where the orchestra is actually loud it’s through composed).

Yvonne Minton – this version has a good pace, nice blending of voice and orchestra and lovely voice across the registers; a good example of a regal Cleopatre. But should she be regal in this instance? I don’t think she should. Luckily, I snatched it before it was taken down…

VK – as you can imagine I listened to all three VK versions I found on youtube. My favourite is the Salzburg one with JEG. Rather in constrast with YM and along the lines of JB, the mortal side of Cleopatre is emphasized here. I also like the strings a lot.

Olga Borodina – as usual, Borodina’s rendition is power-heavy but devoid of interpretation. This one seems MIA as well. But hearing Borodina once is all you need, she sounds the same every time.

Gwyneth Jones – along the lines of Borodina, although with some attention to interpretation. Still, the ending falls flat.

Jessye Norman – I was pleasantly surprised by the restraint displayed by JN with Barenboim. It reaches the right balance between outbursts of anger and inward looking intensity. The piece showcases JN’s voice beautifully.

  1. I also liked Veronique Gens’ version but wasn’t too sure what else to say just yet. Except yay for a native speaker’s French! 
  2. BF = Brigitte Fassbaender, of course, not “boyfriend”. I do get carried away with abbreviating long names, I know. So, moment of pedantry: VK = Vesselina Kasarova, JEG = John Eliot Gardiner.