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.
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.