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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.
24 Mar 2005
Leontyne Price & Samuel Barber: Historic Performances (1938 - 1953)
Among the leading figures in music in twentieth-century America, the composer Samuel Barber and the soprano Leontyne Price are notable for various reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they worked together at various times.
This CD preserves a landmark recital in which Barber accompanied Price in a program of art songs at the Library of Congress, which was given on 30 October 1953 in honor of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Part of that recital was the premiere of Barber's Hermit Songs, op. 29, a work commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation of the Library of Congress.
This recital was broadcast at the time and some may know the performance of the Hermit Songs found on this release from its earlier release on CD (RCA Victor Gold Seal 61983). Yet the concert is available in its entirety only with this recording, which includes the other music Price and Barber performed then: Quatre Poèmes de Paul Eluard by Francis Poulenc, La Voyante by Henri Sauget, along with several other songs by Poulenc, Fauré, and Barber. The choice of music for the recital is excellent, with Sauget's La Voyante ("the medium," which evokes Menotti's opera of the same name) emerging as a particularly memorable cycle. In 1953 American modernism had not yet taken its cues as strongly from serialism as would occur in the next decade. At this point, modern American composers like Barber benefited from their strong association with French modernism as embodied by the composers found in this program.
The recording shows the young Price as a nuanced interpreter of song. Those who know Price from her work in opera should appreciate the details she brings to this recital of almost chamber-music intensity. The evenness of register and clarity of line, two qualities of Price's voice throughout her career, are clearly present in this relatively early recital. At this early in her career Price approached the music for this recital with assuredness and finesse, which adds to the attraction of this CD. At the same time, Barber shows himself to be a fine interpreter of his own music and also a memorable accompanist. Barber does not merely attend to the details of his own works at the expense of the others, but rather treats the other composers in the program in the same meticulous way.
In addition to Leontyne Price's recital, this recording includes a program of songs that was broadcast on 26 December 1938 (through the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia) in which Barber accompanies himself. This recital shows the composer's own voice well, as he performs six folk songs and six Lieder, roughly half an hour of music. As much as a recording like this may be regarded as a curiosity of sorts with the composer as performer, the fine singing and playing by Barber shows the high-level of musicianship he conveyed.
This CD is a wonderful addition to the series of Great Performances from the Library of Congress. The series already includes some remarkable chamber music, as found in the first CD in the series, a program by the Budapest String Quartet with George Szell as pianist and other memorable performances. The prospect of other such releases makes this a series worth watching. For now, this release of these performances by Price and Barber merits interest as an historic recording and also for the high quality of performance it preserves.
James L. Zychowicz