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Rufus Wainwright featured in Shakespeare comparison / stereophile

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With 2016 almost behind us, there's just enough time to speak of two of the many recordings issued this year to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Equally commendable, albeit radically different in the way they honor the Bard, are Shakespeare Songs (Warner Classics) from tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Anthony Pappano (available in 24/96 from HDTracks), and Take All my Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets (Deutsche Grammophon) from Rufus Wainwright and friends (available in 24/44.1 from HDTracks).

As well you might expect, Bostridge and Pappano's is the more traditional effort. Rufus Wainwright is, of course, a very different animal. As nice as his voice may be, there's no question that its range and emotional compass are far more limited. But it's also clear that, in his own way, he ranges much farther afield than Bostridge and Pappano. Take All my Loves is no flash-in-the-pan effort. Encouraged by his mother, Kate McGarrigle, to read Shakespeare's astoundingly subtle, sometimes confounding sonnets during his adolescence, he deepened his appreciation for Shakespeare's accomplishment when Robert Wilson and the Berliner Ensemble commissioned him to write music for an evening of the sonnets. At the same time as he was studying him, his mother was dying of cancer, he was falling in love with his partner, Jörn, and they were planning the conception of their daughter, Viva. What a rich time to immerse oneself in sonnets that, in their own way, are as rich in meaning as Beethoven's piano sonatas.

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