Recently in Recordings
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
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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 -
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It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered
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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.
28 Mar 2005
BACH: St. John's Passion
The explosion of research into the music of J. S. Bach allows for innumerable interpretations of his works. Scholars meticulously study the musical source material, letters and writings from the 17th and 18th centuries, and anything else that could possibly lead to an insight into Bach’s musical practice. Invariably, each interpreter achieves new conclusions and raises new questions forming their own distinctive ideal. In the last decade and a half, the dialogue over Bach’s choral music has been particularly active and fierce with proponents of massive romantic proportions and those who prefer single singers and instrumentalists on a part.
J. S. Bach: St. John Passion, BWV 245
The Netherlands Bach Society; Jos van Veldhoven (cond.)
Gerd Türk (Evangelist); Stephan Mac Leod (Jesus); Caroline Stam;
Peter de Groot; Charles Daniels; Bas Ramselaar
Channel Classics CCS-SA- 22005
The explosion of research into the music of J. S. Bach allows for innumerable interpretations of his works. Scholars meticulously study the musical source material, letters and writings from the 17th and 18th centuries, and anything else that could possibly lead to an insight into Bach's musical practice. Invariably, each interpreter achieves new conclusions and raises new questions forming their own distinctive ideal. In the last decade and a half, the dialogue over Bach's choral music has been particularly active and fierce with proponents of massive romantic proportions and those who prefer single singers and instrumentalists on a part.
This recording of J. S. Bach's St. John Passion by Jos van Veldhoven and the Netherlands Bach Society leans toward the "single singer" position with mild modification. In the liner notes, Van Veldhoven puts forth a convincing case to use solo singers, the 'concertists,' supplemented by one additional 'ripienist' per part for the choral sections. This small ensemble allows for a single instrumentalist on a part as well. The only mild limitation of the small choir is the inability to truly convey the integral link between text and music that Bach creates so vividly in the chorales.
Another interesting contention van Veldhoven makes is that Bach added flutes in later revisions of the work. As a reconstruction of the first performance in 1724, the only wind instruments on this recording are an oboe and oboe d'amore. The immediate result of this omission is a monochromatic sound dominated by strings. The loss of color is most notable in the movements when the flutes provide obbligato to the soprano soloist. In "Ich folge dir gleichfalls," the solo instrumental line is taken by a violin which seems to work quite well. However, in "Zerfliesse," the coupling of an oboe on the flute part with the oboe d'more makes a thick reedy sound through which the soprano Caroline Stam has a little difficulty singing.
Overall the musical quality of the recording is superb. The small ensemble plays and sings the piece like chamber music with a communal connection and sensitivity to one another. Gerd Türk admirably narrates the story as the Evangelist and Stephan MacLeod's Jesus maintains a restrained peace throughout the Passion. Carolyn Stam and the other soloists, Peter de Groot, alto, Charles Daniels, tenor, and Bas Remselaar, bass, all sing with beautiful clarity and emotion. Remselaar's "Eilt" is the highlight of the recording as he navigates the brisk octave and half runs and florid melismas with a frightening intensity juxtaposed against the calm serenity of the chorus' chorale.
A final note of praise should extend to van Veldhoven and the recording's producers. The liner notes are contained in a two hundred page hard bound book with scholarly background information on the Gospel of John's telling of the Passion story, the sources of Bach's musical setting, and Veldhoven's interpretation. Also included are beautiful reproductions of Dutch artwork spanning the 11th through 20th centuries capturing moments in the Passion story. The spacing of this artwork at its corresponding place in text of the work highlights the scholarly intentions of this project. Van Veldhoven's fine recording captures a vision of the St. John Passion shaped by years of musical, historical, and cultural research.