Recently in Recordings
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.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
07 Feb 2005
While a number of fine recent recordings of Mahler’s Lieder with orchestral accompaniment have been released in recent years, his songs are also of interest in the versions the composer made for voice and piano. In presenting the songs with piano accompaniment, Stephan Genz and Roger Vignoles bring out details that can become apparent only in this setting. Genz is known for his fine recordings of Lieder, include the award-winning CD of Beethoven’s Songs, as well as various recordings of Hugo Wolf’s Lieder (all on Hyperion). In this recording of Mahler’s music, he performs with Vignoles three complete sets of Lieder, that is, the cycles Lieder eines farhrenden Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder, as well as the set of Fünf Rückert-Lieder and, further, seven selections of settings from Mahler’s early publication of Lieder und Gesänge.
Stephan Genz, baritone; Roger Vignoles, piano.
Hyperion CD A67392
While a number of fine recent recordings of Mahler's Lieder with orchestral accompaniment have been released in recent years, his songs are also of interest in the versions the composer made for voice and piano. In presenting the songs with piano accompaniment, Stephan Genz and Roger Vignoles bring out details that can become apparent only in this setting. Genz is known for his fine recordings of Lieder, include the award-winning CD of Beethoven's Songs, as well as various recordings of Hugo Wolf's Lieder (all on Hyperion). In this recording of Mahler's music, he performs with Vignoles three complete sets of Lieder, that is, the cycles Lieder eines farhrenden Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder, as well as the set of Fünf Rückert-Lieder and, further, seven selections of settings from Mahler's early publication of Lieder und Gesänge.
Genz's approach to Mahler's early songs, as with his other recordings of Lieder, demonstrates his sensitivity to the text through consistently excellent diction and sense of musical line. In the early song "Hans und Grete," the articulation of "Ringel, ringel Reih'n!" echoes the accompaniment before proceeding with the principal melodic line; likewise, his enunciation of the exclamation of "Juchhe!" is tastefully controlled and avoids caricature. Yet when the music demands a more extroverted sound, Genz shows a full and solid tone that rings memorably. His exuberant performance of the Wunderhorn setting "Scheiden und Meiden" (which Mahler adapted from "Drei Reiter am Thor") makes one wonder why other singers have not made as much of this fine song, as well as some of the others selected for this CD.
With the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Genz and Vignoles work together as if they were performing chamber music. The various emotions depicted in the songs emerge clearly from the performers' sensitivity to dynamic levels and phrasing. In fact, the ensemble that they create is essential to their engaging interpretation of Mahler's Kindertotenlieder, which is intense because of the way the vocal line is handed off elegantly to the piano throughout the five songs of this cycle. Vignoles shapes his part as if he himself were singing, such that the lyricism of the first song "Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n" stems from the voice and piano working together. Some passages of "Nun seh' ich wohl" have a sense of rubato that underscores the text so that it conveys the poetry clearly, without lapsing into shapeless declamation. This stands in contrast to the steady rhythm Genz uses for "Wenn dein Mutterlein," which benefits from understatement. At the same time, "In diesem Wetter" is notable for the subtlety that makes this final song convincing, as Genz and Vignoles pace the climax of the song and with it, bring the entire cycle, to its poignant conclusion.
For those who know the music, the recordings of the Kindertotenlieder and the Fünf Rückert-Lieder contain nuances that are worth rehearing. "Um Mitternacht" is tellingly triumphant, and "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" is a notworthy interpretation of which must be one of Mahler's most familiar songs. In fact, the entirety of this recording bears consideration for the consistently fine interpretations of all the Lieder selected for the CD.
Roger Vignoles contributed some excellent notes to accompany the recording, and his insights into the Lieder are worth reading for their pithy insights into interpreting the songs with piano accompaniment. In addition, the full German texts of all the Lieder are provided, along with translations in English. Vignoles' notes are translated into both German and French.
James L. Zychowicz
Click here for recording details, an excerpt of the sleeve notes and an audio sample.