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.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
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 -
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.
01 Mar 2005
Mosaic: African-American Spirituals
Angela Brown has attracted the attention of those eager for the appearance of the next great Verdi soprano, and she continues to live up to the high expectations. Appearances with the Opera Company of Philadelphia as Leonara in Il Trovatore, Elisabetta in Don Carlo, and Strauss’s Ariadne evoked high praise from local and national critics, and her recent debut as Aida at the Metropolitan Opera was well received. All have noted the powerful and richly expressive voice in early bloom as well as Brown’s commanding stage presence. So this recent recording of spirituals, sung only with guitar or piano accompaniment (they all three contribute to the final “Ride Up in the Chariot”), is an interesting release. Brown is minimizing resources in search of what, in the liner notes, she calls an “intimate recording” of “songs of personal introspection.” The results are a little more mixed than her operatic reception.
Mosaic: African-American Spirituals
Angela Brown, soprano, with Joseph Joubert (piano) and Tyron Cooper (guitar).
Albany Records TROY721 [CD]
Angela Brown has attracted the attention of those eager for the appearance of the next great Verdi soprano, and she continues to live up to the high expectations. Appearances with the Opera Company of Philadelphia as Leonara in Il Trovatore, Elisabetta in Don Carlo, and Strauss's Ariadne evoked high praise from local and national critics, and her recent debut as Aida at the Metropolitan Opera was well received. All have noted the powerful and richly expressive voice in early bloom as well as Brown's commanding stage presence. So this recent recording of spirituals, sung only with guitar or piano accompaniment (they all three contribute to the final "Ride Up in the Chariot"), is an interesting release. Brown is minimizing resources in search of what, in the liner notes, she calls an "intimate recording" of "songs of personal introspection." The results are a little more mixed than her operatic reception.
The sheer beauty of the voice is never in question. This is a remarkable and wisely used instrument. And Brown occasionally relaxes into her lower register and reveals a bluesy quality that makes the listener wish she would let down her guard more often. Indeed, that is a recurring wish as the disc plays on.
The program has an exuberant opening. "Ev'ry Time I Feel the Spirit," co-arranged by Moses Hogan, Brown, and guitarist Tyron Cooper, introduces Brown in a relaxed yet rhythmically driven performance, the voice charged with energy and the guitar intricate but unobtrusive. The next selection, however, seems as if it is by another artist. The voice is heavy and the performance mannered, and Brown for the first time, but not the last, exhibits a tendency to sing a note under pitch until the last nanosecond before releasing it. "My Soul's Been Anchored" ends with some stunning vocal flourishes - the high notes are rich, clean, and motivated - but "City Called Heaven," which follows, again reveals a weightier and pitch-challenged sound. This quality persists in "Give Me Jesus" until Brown soars back into the stratosphere for some singing that is lighter and cleaner and highly effective. It is not until the eleventh selection, "Walk Together Children," that the energy and excitement of the opening track are recalled. Here, as at the top, the tempo and rhythmic demands don't allow Brown time to get in the way of the song, and the result is unadulterated joy. Much of the remaining performances are nothing special, but "Lord, How Come Me Here" is. This is performed - but never over performed - almost as a dramatic monologue. Brown gives the song-scene musical and dramatic shape, and she uses her voice better here than anywhere else on the recording. This is a singing actress at work, and the results are quite effective. Despite the swinging gospel feel of the guitar and piano on the final track ("Ride Up in the Chariot"), Brown sounds constricted in their company, and the final fadeout seems like a cheat. Perhaps Brown should have saved one of her previous big finishes for the last song.
Essentially a program of encores, this recording would benefit from shuffling. All the guitar collaborations are on the first half, and, after the opening number, they are all slow and contemplative. While Tyron Cooper plays with a wonderful breadth of style and beauty of tone and always provides sensitive collaboration for Brown, a little more variety would make a better program. The guitar-voice balance is always just right; both establish a close but comfortable presence. Pianist Joseph Joubert at first suffers from bad sound engineering - on "Come Down Angels" the piano sounds as if it were in a different room than the microphone -- and occasionally his arrangements sound perilously like supper club arrangements. On "He Never Said a Mumblin' Word" and "Lord, How Come Me Here," however, he is a dignified and complimentary partner to Brown, and his playing with Cooper on the last track is thrilling.
Angela Brown is to be applauded for recording a collection of spirituals in such interesting and often excellent settings. Her choice of guitar and piano in mostly small-scale arrangements is a refreshing nod towards the integrity this repertoire demands but doesn't always get. Incorporating blues and jazz elements into the arrangements adds to the cultural richness of songs already culturally rich. But sometimes it all sounds like work. Much of the time Brown sounds like an opera singer trying to scale down, working from the outside in, as it were. While she mentions, as noted above, that she thinks of these as "songs of personal introspection," not enough of these performances are introspective. The frequent lack of spontaneity precludes any introspection. This recording might be a labor of love for Ms. Brown, but it still too often sounds like a labor. Still, when it works, the soul soars.
Jim Lovensheimer, Ph.D.
Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University