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.
05 Apr 2005
In 1934, John Christie launched an institution of English musical life with Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert: The Glyndebourne Festival. Since 1951, the Festival has staged four productions of Mozart’s opera seria Idomeneo (1781), the most recent being in 2003.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Idomeneo (KV 366)
Richard Lewis, Leo Goeke, Bozena Betley, Josephine Barstow
The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Glyndebourne Chorus, John Pritchard
Arthaus Music 101 079 [DVD]
In 1934, John Christie launched an institution of English musical life with Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert: The Glyndebourne Festival. Since 1951, the Festival has staged four productions of Mozart's Idomeneo (1781), the most recent being in 2003.
Listening and watching a performance almost thirty years after the event is in some respects like Monday morning quarterbacking. It is good to keep in mind that at the time of this performance, the study of historical performance practice was still in its nascent stage and Mozart research was, by today's standard, still in its youth. More significantly, the re-discovered performing score of 1780/81, used by the composer, was not available in 1972 when the Neue Mozart Ausgabe score of Idomeneo was published. To speak of a single definitive Idomeneo is difficult because of the many variants and alternatives that Mozart composed for this opera.
This 1974 production, the third staging at the Glyndebourne Festival, takes editing liberties of its own to fit a four-hour opera into two hours, without the ballet. Act I begins with scene eight, skips Idamante's aria Il spadre adorato, and segues to the Intermezzo, which is also edited. The remaining two acts are similarly edited, omitting recitatives and abridging the arias. Program notes attempt to fill the void.
Act II scene one, uses the opening scene composed for the 1786 performance in Vienna, namely, a recitative between Idamante (Leo Goeke) and Ilia (Bozena Betley). Goeke sings the aria that follows accompanied by an obligato violin, both of which are disappointing. Act III is the most dramatic and was the most appealing to Mozart--"there is hardly a scene in it which is not extremely interesting." (3 Jan 1781) Elettra's final aria (Oh semania! Oh furie!), which always "brings down the house," is considered by some the best in the opera. This performance by a young Josephine Barstow does not disappoint, either vocally or dramatically, and illustrates why the soprano is today one of the Grand Dames of opera.
Mozart referred to this work as his "Munich opera" or his "grand opera" (meine grosse oper), but not as an opera seria. Composed for the celebration of carnival in Munich (1781), this work differs from the traditional opera seria most noticeably in its musical continuity and the exquisite ensemble writing, a hallmark of Mozart's operas. Regrettably, the vocal ensembles are not at their best in this performance. Markedly, the quartet Andro ramingo e solo, which moved Mozart to tears, neither draws in the listener nor elicits a depth of emotion.
The sound of the orchestra is not always even, a fault of the recording. The overall vocal performances are good but not stellar, and there are moments where intonation is uncertain. Richard Lewis, the first English Idomeneo in the 1951 production, and Leo Goeke are wanting; their acting and characterizations are stiff and uninspiring; posed and bland. Unfortunately, this seeps into their singing. Goeke however, finally breaks out of the box in the last scene, giving more drama and voice than previously heard. Bozena Betley and Josephine Barstow dominate the opera both vocally and dramatically. Barstow's performance as the lascivious, vitriolic, and frenzied Elettra is a total package; she does not miss a beat. Bozena Betley's coloratura is remarkably natural; she is at her best in the Act II aria, Se il padre perdei.
The set design by Roger Butlin is reflective of the 1970s. A receding series of rings/arches--reminiscent of depictions of time warps--frame an already small stage, making it seem even smaller. Halfway through the opera, one might feel claustrophobic. It is only in the last scene of the opera that their purpose becomes clear: the interior of Neptune's temple. It is not worth the wait. The backdrops capture some of the splendour of opera seria, the pastoral scenes are quite pleasing; the storms are effective but the sea monster--called for in Mozart's original directions--is disappointing, bordering on the ridiculous. The chorus, whose overall performance is good, delivers one of its better scenes at the end of Act II with the appearance of the sea monster. Its effectiveness is compromised however, by the staging which has the chorus seemingly fettered to their places as they sing "let us run, let us flee." When they finally do leave the stage, it is simply too orderly for a citizenry fearing for its life. It seems that the size of the stage, once again, contributes to the problem.
In 1974, this John Cox production did not thrill the operagoer. Thirty years latter, it is still a "mixed bag." It is the performances of Dame Josephine and Bozena Betley however, that are worth the view.
Geraldine M. Rohling