Recently in Recordings
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.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
15 Apr 2005
English Choral Music
One has to wonder if the number of recordings of English choirs singing English choral music will ever reach a saturation point. This Naxos double disc by the Choir of St. Johns College, Cambridge, may very well signify such a moment through its attempt to chronicle the succession of English choral music from the 19th century to the present. The choir of men and boys sings gloriously, nearly equaling their more famous sister choir at King’s College, yet the musical montage is rather unusual.
English Choral Music
Choir of St. Johns College, Cambridge
Naxos 8.557557-58 [2CDs]
One has to wonder if the number of recordings of English choirs singing English choral music will ever reach a saturation point. This Naxos double disc by the Choir of St. Johns College, Cambridge, may very well signify such a moment through its attempt to chronicle the succession of English choral music from the 19th century to the present. The choir of men and boys sings gloriously, nearly equaling their more famous sister choir at King's College, yet the musical montage is rather unusual.
The set progresses chronologically, from Charles Stanford through eleven of the greatest English composers of the last one hundred and fifty years. Selected from previous recordings devoted to each individual composer, the tracks are assembled haphazardly. The representative works do not follow a single unifying thread. Most are purely liturgical, reflecting the overwhelming majority of English choral music. However, mixed in with settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by C. V. Stanford or the Coronation Te Deum of William Walton are famous anthems not intended for use in service. Benjamin Britten's monumental Hymn to St. Cecilia, a setting of W. H. Auden's surrealist poem, feels out of place. Herbert Howells' haunting elegy to the slain John F. Kennedy, Take Him Earth for Cherishing, also feels awkward following his settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for the St. Paul's service.
Another peculiarity of this compilation is reflected in the type and frequency of works of certain composers. Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was instrumental in shaping the modern English choral sound, has only one piece included. "The Call," is not a true choral anthem but comes from the song cycle Five Mystical Songs. The baritone solo is sung by a boy treble creating a nice, albeit highly atypical, effect. The lesser-known composers Edmund Rubbra and Lennox Berkeley provide four and three pieces respectively. Their compositional voices are unique, but nonetheless less satisfying than their more famous counterparts. In addition, works by the contemporary composer John Tavener are included on the final disc. An argument can be made for including him because of the profound contribution he has made to western church music, but his presence seems nevertheless incongruous due to his break with Anglicanism and subsequent devout Eastern Orthodox faith.
Despite its programmatic peculiarities, this disc excels musically. The Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge sings with wonderful warmth often absent from many English choirs' stark and hollow sound. The boy trebles, led by the marvelous Oliver Lepage-Dean who is highlighted with several solos, sing with a strong ringing head voice, and also with a pleasant richness in their lower register. Director Christopher Robinson has fashioned a fabulous ensemble with brilliant clarity, precise intonation, and a striking pure tone. But if you're picky about the anthems on your disc, perhaps the choirs' individual recordings of works by these composers would be a better choice than this clumsy compilation.