Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Benjamin Ivry
Spirituality & Health, January 2002

"The Amici Ensemble features a splendidly nimble clarinetist, Joaquin Valdepenas, who conquers the numerous technical challenges, playing with gusto and convincing emphasis. The high-flying titles of movements, like 'Vocalise for the Angel Announcing the End of Time' and 'Praise to the Eternity of Jesus,' are coherent and credible in the hands of an artist of Valdepenas's caliber."

Turok’s Choice, December 2001

"Messiaen's haunting work is powerfully, yet unexaggeratedly played by the Amici Ensemble."

Gilbert French
American Record Guide, December 2001

"In the Quartet, Messiaen moves far beyond the impressionism of Ravel, placing an even greater demand on the performers for evenness of touch and sensitivity to the slightest nuance... Canadian violinist Scott St John, the best of the players, is at his peak in the heavenly finale, and Toronto-based pianist Patricia Parr maintains atmosphere and mood very well...

Bravo to the Naxos engineers, who supply a warm, balanced palette with which the players can express every dynamic--even the softest--without straining."

Robert Kirzinger
Fanfare, December 2001

"The movements for the full ensemble are the most effectively performed"

Toronto Star, October 2001
It's not often that an ensemble has the luxury of rerecording a piece: Amici earned a Juno for its 1995 Summit Records release of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time (along with Ka Nin Chan's I Think That I Shall Never See); now they have redone it for Naxos. This time around Scott St. John plays violin instead of Shmuel Askenasi, and, not surprisingly, that makes a big difference in the last movement. It's not better, just different. Ashkenasi's obsessive but extremely controlled portamento -- which is such a wonderful metaphor for circling, as opposed to linear, time -- gave his interpretation an other-worldly quality which I loved, and his climaxes were truly ecstatic. St. John's is magical in other ways, though -- and it's certainly more delicate, or tender.

"But other differences do make this version a definite improvement on what was already an excellent disc. Sound and balance are more atmospheric (though I do miss the way the twittering birdcalls of the violin in the first movement of the original version did truly seem to come from far away). More importantly, tempos are faster and movements that laboured before now do not. The clarinet's birdsong is both more organic and less precious. The piano is less obviously manipulating the chord changes for expressive purposes, and its sound is sometimes marvellously feathery. And the glorious cello and piano movement "Louange a l'eternite de Jesus" is so perfectly poised in tempo and balance that there's no sense of Messiaen being filtered through instrumental peculiarities or a particular interpretative stance: It's just pure Messiaen."

William Littler
Toronto Star, September 2001

"Pick Of The Week. The idiosyncratic scoring for piano, clarinet, violin and cello...makes the work an ideal vehicle for Amici, the Toronto-based trio founded by pianist Patricia Parr, clarinettist Joaquin Valdepenas and cellist David Hetherington, joined on this occasion by a frequent collaborator, violinist Scott St. John...[the Quartet is] nicely complemented by a disc-filling account by St. John and Parr of Messiaen's youthfully lyrical, seldom heard Theme And Variations."

Brian Hunt
The Daily Telegraph (Australia), July 2001

"Its frequent lushness makes Messians' Quartet for the End of Time a comparatively approachable 20th century landmark. It therefore appears regularly on the concert platform and in the record catalogue, though a brand-new budget recording such as this is still out of the ordinary.

However, no central performance tradition seems yet to have emerged. Any one of the instruments - clarinet, violin, cello, piano - can be the dominant influence on an interpretation, thus presenting the work in a different light. The strength of this Canadian performance is that, while each player shines in extended solos, an overall equilibrium is maintained. Similarly, a balance is struck between elegant classicism and the ecstatic conviction with which Messian interpreted the Book of Revelation in purely musical terms.

Joaquin Valdepenas (clarinet), Scott St. John (violin), David Hetherington (cello) and Patricia Parr (piano) are jewels of Toronto's musical life. This marvellous recording confirms Amici as on of the world's finest chamber ensembles."

Jed Distler, May 2001

"There's much to admire about the Amici Ensemble's Messiaen. The musicians convey the opening Liturgie de cristal's birdsong evocations with perfectly proportioned dynamics and a genuine sense of a world awakening. Following a strongly projected introduction, the second movement's slow, muted violin and cello unison lines are hauntingly sustained against the piano's steady chordal clouds. In his unaccompanied third movement clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas' long held notes are amazingly clear and laser-like, while the contrasting sixteenth notes sing out with abandon: a prodigious and moving performance. Intermède is brightly characterized and clearly balanced, although the trills in the coda could have been more decisive and biting. The evenness and sustained calm pianist Patricia Parr and cellist David Hetherington bring to the sublime Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus is momentarily shaken by the cellist's wobbly high D-sharp at measure 14, followed by excessive vibrato in the climatic measures. Danse de la fureur's assymetrical rhythms are intensely pointed and driven. While the cellist's heart-on-sleeve vibrato above the staff makes the seventh movement's introduction cloying rather than ecstatic, the animated central section is solidly played. Few pianists other than Peter Serkin, however, play the final movement's motto rhythm correctly, and Parr is no exception. She consistently elongates the first note of each pattern in order to line up with the violin's triplets, an effect that misrepresents what the composer intended. Accuracy, however, is not an issue with the sensitive reading of Messiaen's early Theme and Variations for violin and piano that fills out this disc. Overall, a fine release, far superior to DG's recent gloss on the Quartet with Gil Shaham & Co."

Dominique Olivier
La Scena Musicale

"L'anecdote entourant la composition et la creation du Quatuor pour la fin du temps 'Olivier Messiaen fait parfois oublier la beaute intrinseque de cette ?uvre inspiree par une citation de l'Apocalypse. Son createur, fait prisonnier de guerre en Silesie, entre 1940 et 1942, a reussi, non seulement a ecrire cette ?uvre majeure du XXe siecle, mais egalement a la creer en representation... Soixante ans plus tard, le Quatuor garde tout son pouvoir evocateur, toute sa force spirituelle et, surtout, musicale. L'Ensemble Amici en donne une version chantante, aux teintes plutot douces, aux tempi souples, ce qui contraste avec certaines interpretations aux accents carrement agressifs. Le clarinettiste Joaquin Valdepenas y est stupefiant de precision et sa maitrise de la sonorite est exemplaire. Le piano de Patricia Parr sait se faire enveloppant, le jeu du violoniste Scott St. John et celui du violoncelliste David Hetherington sont superbes, malgre certains flottements d'intonation dans le septieme mouvement (" Fouillis d'arc-en-ciel... "). Il s'agit d'une tres belle version pour qui recherche plus ce qui chante que ce qui frappe. La prise de son est belle. Le Theme et variations interprete par Scott St. John et Patricia Parr complete l'ensemble."

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group