Recently in Recordings
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered
and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has
happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by
Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.
This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the
most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100
songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable
artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan
Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles”
This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa
Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The
Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s
Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical
Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their
40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two
settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.
Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according
to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.
Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
22 Oct 2004
Thomas Quasthoff Sings Sacred Cantatas by Bach
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE Thomas Quasthoff Sings Sacred Cantatas by Bach by Jürgen Otten It would be easy to describe or appraise the art of bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff by evoking the title of an exquisite lied by the Romantic...
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Thomas Quasthoff Sings Sacred Cantatas by Bach
by Jürgen Otten
It would be easy to describe or appraise the art of bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff by evoking the title of an exquisite lied by the Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn: "On Wings of Song". For a number of decades now, Quasthoff has soared on those wings through the musical world in continual search of new discoveries, of new shores. And just as he did most recently with his highly acclaimed CD A Romantic Songbook (together with the outstanding pianist Justus Zeyen), Quasthoff has once again entered seemingly familiar territory and - through the incomparable quality of his interpretation - made it entirely his own. That territory, in short, is J. S. Bach and the three cantatas for baritone or bass.
Three classics of the Baroque repertoire. And in at least two cases, Thomas Quasthoff had already enjoyed an early involvement with them. Something that many music lovers could hardly know is that, as a schoolboy in his native city of Hildesheim, Quasthoff sang in the choir of St. Michael's, one of Germany's most beautiful churches - not only art historians have sung the praises of its ceiling frescoes painted on wood. He was 13 when the choir's director invited him to join. Today when he looks back on that time, Quasthoff's thoughts are invariably drawn to the works of Bach. He grew up with them - he internalized them, so to speak, as part of a singers' collective well before beginning his international career.
The collective idea forms an essential component of the 2003 Grammy winner's newest recording. Accompanying Quasthoff, along with members of the RIAS Kammerchor (Berlin Radio Chamber Choir, under the direction of Daniel Reuss), are the Berlin Barock Solisten (Berlin Baroque Soloists), led by Rainer Kussmaul. The singer has already given a number of concerts with this ensemble - and discovered that the musical ideas of these Berlin Philharmonic players are very closely related to his own. The results of this collaboration based on friendship are superb readings of the Thomaskantor's three popular sacred cantatas, performances which in their blend of transparency and transcendence represent a milestone in the history of these works.
The secret of this successful collaboration - aside from purely human aspects - can most plainly be found in the manner in which Quasthoff and the Berlin Baroque Soloists recreate Bach's musical language for a new audience. The strings play on modern instruments but use Baroque bows, which serves to make the sound homogeneous and plastic but not too thin. And Quasthoff's bass-baritone voice, with its natural vibrato, blends perfectly into this ensemble. A further and enormous attraction of Quasthoff's Bach interpretation stems from the fact that he approaches the works using his full expressive powers. In other words, here is an artist who does more than illustrate the emotional states in Bach's music - he breathes into them something entirely his own. When, to give just one example, the moment he begins the aria "Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen" from Cantata BWV 82, Ich habe genug (which he numbers among "the most beautiful things in all of Baroque music"), one can positively feel the religious charge contained in this music - its profound drama, its profound meaning, and, not least, its humanity and universality, which can scarcely be described in words.
Thomas Quasthoff has no intention of revolutionizing the Bach performance tradition with this recording. For that the charismatic singer is far too modest. "I would never go so far as to say: What we've done here is to make the Bach interpretation." And yet Quasthoff readily admits that the heightened emotional factor here in comparison with previous recordings is what distinguishes his view of Bach. "My approach to Bach," he says, "is marked by a highly personal experience of this music. And this personal experience is what I'm trying to convey to the listener."
Without risk of overstatement one can say that with the present recording Thomas Quasthoff has again succeeded in realizing that subtle difference between conventional and individualized interpretation. In this connection, moreover, and referring specifically to the Passion-like character of these cantatas, he has no hesitation in articulating an unusually personal point of view: "When someone has enjoyed a life of fulfilment and is plagued in old age by pain and suffering, then he or she may well look forward hopefully to death. I can identify with that. There have been situations in my life in which I had the feeling: Death would be the better alternative to what you're going through now." Who knows, perhaps it is precisely in the unvarnished, even mercilessly blunt honesty of this attitude to life and music that the secret of Quasthoff's singing lies. His recording of these three sacred cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach certainly provides eloquent support for that notion.
[Source: Deutsche Grammophon]
Other Recordings by Quasthoff: