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At last, a success! The title Barbara Hannigan’s La Passione speaks for itself, and is an intriguing blend of musical genres. She starts as soprano, singing Nono’s 1962 ‘Djamila Boupachà’, which gives voice to the Algerian militant, whose confession for planting a bomb was gained under torture and rape and caused a seismic shift in French opinion at the time. The voice soars and swoops and is highly theatrical. As is the vocal line in Gérard Grisey’s Quatre Chants pour Franchir le Seuil (Four Songs for Crossing the Threshold) which indeed turned out to be the composer’s four last songs due to his sudden death in 1998 aged 52. Grisey was considered a spectralist composer, meaning that the spectrum replaces music’s conventional form, rhythm, harmony and so on; essentially an attempt to convey the inner reality of sound. A fascinating and inspirational intellectual challenge? Typical French philosophical posturing? Visionary and life affi rming? Smoke and mirrors? You decide, but it is hard not to be intrigued by Hannigan’s precise and committed singing as she weaves through Grisey’s microtonal maze with typical confidence. The title track of the album sees her conducting, leading Haydn’s gorgeous Symphony No 49 with great style, the four movements elegantly contrasted in their moods, the strong lines particularly gracious, the little Trio in the fourth movement lurching disquietingly from the prevalent F minor into F major.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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