Recently in Recordings
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.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
28 Feb 2005
STRAVINSKY: Oedipus Rex; Les Noces
Robert Craft has begun an ambitious project of recording Stravinsky’s oeuvre with two of the best dramatic works, Oedipus Rex — a sort of melodrama in a fever — and Les Noces (The Wedding), which simply defies any generic classification. The two make an ideal pairing, Rex as high drama told at a breakneck crawl, Noces as a kind of musical Polaroid camera that churns through frozen snapshots with a mind numbing velocity. Craft was a close confidant and collaborator with Stravinsky, and was responsible for many premiers and other definitive statements. For better or worse this fact brought down upon his head a certain amount of critical skepticism on the part of academics. This can be set to one side in these recordings, which are certainly reliable in a workaday sense, if a little tepid in terms of insight and energy.
Igor Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex; Les Noces
Martyn Hill, Susan Bickley, Edward Fox, Robert Craft, Alison Wells, Jennifer Lane, Andrew Greenan, David Wilson-Johnson, Joseph Cornwell, Alan Ewing
Philharmonia Orchestra, Simon Joly Chorus, Tristan Fry Percussion Ensemble, International Piano Quartet
Robert Craft, cond.
NAXOS 8.557499 [CD]
Robert Craft has begun an ambitious project of recording Stravinsky's oeuvre with two of the best dramatic works, Oedipus Rex -- a sort of melodrama in a fever -- and Les Noces (The Wedding), which simply defies any generic classification. The two make an ideal pairing, Rex as high drama told at a breakneck crawl, Noces as a kind of musical Polaroid camera that churns through frozen snapshots with a mind numbing velocity. Craft was a close confidant and collaborator with Stravinsky, and was responsible for many premiers and other definitive statements. For better or worse this fact brought down upon his head a certain amount of critical skepticism on the part of academics. This can be set to one side in these recordings, which are certainly reliable in a workaday sense, if a little tepid in terms of insight and energy.
I like my Stravinsky recordings crisp -- lines well separated, with a good sense of presence and definition in all the parts -- which is why I find this Naxos recording sufficient (as most Naxos products are), but only sufficient. Recorded at the Abbey Road Studios in London, they have a certain "live" presence, an indefiniteness in the mix, where I would have appreciated more precision. In all fairness to the recording engineers, Noces is a fatally flawed recording proposition to begin with: scored for four pianos, a small army of percussion instruments, chorus, and vocal soloists, it will never be recorded in anything like its live imprint. The effect of the four pianos in concert is not to be replicated, but we might hope to get something of the percussion at appropriate moments, and this is usually the case here, with the exception of the all important bells, too often obscured and kept from playing their role as a kind of place marker in the music. Oedipus is another matter. Its drama allows for a recording engineer to create a drama in the mix, bringing essential dramatic persons and instruments forward, while letting the inessentials recede into the background. On some tracks this is done with astonishing accuracy, but on others it seems hit or miss. Here is where an engineer should come into their own, but only if they can compound craft with a really good sense of the music. Intuition seems slightly lacking on this recording.
The artists involved, singers and instrumentalists alike, are all adequate, again in the normal Naxos fashion, but no individual performance stands out. While this would set the music forward, were it any other composer, Stravinsky -- to remain crisp -- requires a fine sense of artistic individuality, a humor like his own, to bring the best out. You can't simply play Stravinsky, as you might Shostakovitch, and leave the drama to the score. Stravinsky's music is a cult of the personality, like the man, above musical logic. Lose sight of that fact and the result is tepid at best. While there are moments of individual genius here, for the most part the work is simply workmanlike.
Caveat emptor: these recordings were released previously on the Koch International Label. The apparently anonymous translation of Rex is a serviceable, albeit liberal synopsis of the Latin text. Latin-deprived souls will have to extrapolate from the English gloss. The transliteration from the Cyrillic and English translation of Les Noces by Philip Taylor, on the other hand, shows considerable care and fidelity.
University of Ottawa