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.
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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
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ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
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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
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This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa
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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.
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to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.
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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.
08 Mar 2005
The Origin of Fire: Music and Visions of Hildegard von Bingen
This last in the contributions of Anonymous 4 to the performance of medieval music is a selection of thematically related texts – most by Hildegard von Bingen – dealing with a spiritual or religious fire. Those renditions of traditional hymns, such as “Veni Creator Spiritus” and “Veni Spiritus eternorum alme,” are interspersed with works of Hildegard’s composition. Some of these are based on her prose visions, e.g. “Et ego homo non calens,” identified topically as “The fire of creation,” a depiction of which is also used for the cover illustration. The prose texts are provided with musical adaptations of plainsong by Anonymous 4. “The fire of creation” was performed using plainchant, and Hildegard’s vision “The fiery spirit” was adapted to a two-voice lection tone from Christmas matins of Polish origin.
The Origin of Fire: Music and Visions of Hildegard von Bingen
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907327 [CD]
This last in the contributions of Anonymous 4 to the performance of medieval music is a selection of thematically related texts - most by Hildegard von Bingen - dealing with a spiritual or religious fire. Those renditions of traditional hymns, such as "Veni Creator Spiritus" and "Veni Spiritus eternorum alme," are interspersed with works of Hildegard's composition. Some of these are based on her prose visions, e.g. "Et ego homo non calens," identified topically as "The fire of creation," a depiction of which is also used for the cover illustration. The prose texts are provided with musical adaptations of plainsong by Anonymous 4. "The fire of creation" was performed using plainchant, and Hildegard's vision "The fiery spirit" was adapted to a two-voice lection tone from Christmas matins of Polish origin.
A number of works by Hildegard chosen for performance here reflect both text and music by the author. These are made up, for the most part, of antiphons, sequences, responsories, and hymns. Some of these works are of a more general character and not typical of specific liturgical feast days. The antiphon, "O quam mirabilis est," sung here in a seamless performance of ascending melodic surges with effective melismatic decoration, concentrates on praise of God as the creator of mankind. Because of Hildegard's association of creation with fire elsewhere, the inclusion of such related texts here is certainly appropriate.
Perhaps some of the most interesting of Hildegard's compositions featured here deal with the Holy Spirit in varying depictions. The lengthy sequence, "O ignis spiritus paracliti," sees the Paraclete associated with fire and as the origin of all life. In this work the hope of humankind rests with the Spirit as defender, and the military imagery is especially striking ("O breastplate of life"). This metaphor is continued as the Spirit is called upon to defend those in the power of the enemy and to free those bound prisoners destined to be saved by divine sanction. The sequence concludes with an evocation of the Spirit granting light. The compelling performance here of the work by Anonymous 4 suggests praise of the Spirit which pervades the entire sequence while conceding - at the same time - the power of the divinity.
In keeping with this tone of military power for the Spirit, Anonymous 4 has chosen another of Hildegard's large-scale works on the Holy Spirit, the hymn "O ignee spiritus" ("O fiery spirit"). In this work the praise of the Paraclete is at first primarily suggestive of spiritual and intellectual support. The power of the Spirit suddenly rises up wielding a sword and declared ready to cut off the threat of evil. Again and again the spirit confronts these dark forces and helps to support reason which may have succumbed to them. As a reminder of this power inherent in the Spirit the hymn finally invokes the lost angel whose tower of pride was cast into hell.
The recorded legacy of Anonymous 4 is an especially rich panorama of both secular and sacred medieval music ranging from love songs to saints' lives. Their work has done much to rekindle interest in certain neglected aspects of early music performance. With the present recording of Hildegard's music and visions her works have been made more accessible and can be appreciated through such carefully planned and executed performances.