Recently in Recordings
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.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
30 Jan 2005
A Batallar Estrellas — Music in Spanish Cathedrals of the Seventeenth Century
Interest in the music of “New Spain” (the Spanish colonies in the Americas) has blossomed in the last decade, with a number of fine recordings of sacred music composed by musicians who emigrated to the New World in support of the mission of the Catholic church. A parallel interest in the music of those who stayed in Spain – indeed, who set the tradition that was exported to the Americas – has been slower to build, so this recording is especially welcome, since it provides an opportunity to hear a tradition seldom performed outside of Spain, whether in the Baroque era or in the present.
A batallar estrellas — Music in Spanish Cathedrals of the Seventeenth Century
Al Ayre Espanol, dir. Eduardo López Banzo
Harmonia Mundi Spain HMI 987053
Interest in the music of "New Spain" (the Spanish colonies in the Americas) has blossomed in the last decade, with a number of fine recordings of sacred music composed by musicians who emigrated to the New World in support of the mission of the Catholic church. A parallel interest in the music of those who stayed in Spain - indeed, who set the tradition that was exported to the Americas - has been slower to build, so this recording is especially welcome, since it provides an opportunity to hear a tradition seldom performed outside of Spain, whether in the Baroque era or in the present.
Spanish music of the seventeenth century has been characterized in history books as "conservative", and it is perhaps true that the works featured on this CD often reflect a sensibility that hearkens back to Renaissance harmony and counterpoint: absent are the virtuoso fireworks of the Italian tradition, nor do we encounter the subtly shifting ornamentation and rhythmic nuance of the French "not-Baroque". Because of this relatively counterpoint-oriented tendency in the repertory, the instrumental tracks are the least outstanding musically - though they are played sensitively, bringing out the details of the complexity of texture that seems to be a hallmark of Spanish instrumental works of this era.
The vocal tracks, however, are truly wonderful - musical phrases are often simple and short, which could lead to monotony, but in the hands of Al Ayre Espanol becomes an opportunity for the display of a wide variety of timbres and scorings. Typical of the Spanish basso continuo ensemble was heavy used of plucked and strummed instruments - especially guitars and harps - and this feature not only suits the excerpts remarkably well but also provides a new soundscape for those of us more used to harpsichord or even theorbo / chitarrone accompaniment. Especially in the villancico A batallar estrellas ("To battle, stars"), which gives the collection its title, the rhythmic drive of the rasgueado (strummed) guitars energizes the quick alternations of solos and chorus, resulting in a musical experience unlike any more "mainstream" Italian, French, or German work from the time. No wonder that this tradition became such a crucial part of the message of Catholicism in South America!
The ensemble approaches this repertory with energy and passion: it is clear that they particularly enjoy the characteristically Spanish genre of the villancico, and works in that genre are the absolute highlights of this recording, each singly worth the price of the entire collection. Some tracks are more tightly executed than others; the soloist countertenor, in particular, appears to strain and his vocal style is not especially refined - which works perfectly in the more "rough and tumble" pieces such as the villancicos, but a little less so in the more staid motet Maria Mater Dei. Soprano soloists are more uniformly excellent, and employ a wide range of techniques - including a well controlled vibrato and what seem to be pointedly "Andalusian" musical swoops - to remarkable effect. Balance between instrumentalists and vocalists is well calculated, and the recording itself seems to be technically solid, with no problematic audio issues. While not every track of this recording bears repeated listening, it is a crucial addition to the library of those who love the Baroque and want to expand their repertory of seventeenth-century soundscapes.
The University of Texas at Austin