Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Stéphanie D’Oustrac: Sirènes

After D’Oustrac’s striking success as Cassandre in Berlioz Les Troyens, this will reach audiences less familiar with her core repertoire in the baroque and grand opéra. Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and La mort d’Ophélie, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and the Lieder of Franz Liszt are very well known, but the finesse of D’Oustrac’s timbre lends a lucid gloss which makes them feel fresh and pure.

Luminous Mahler Symphony no.3: François-Xavier Roth, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.3 with François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, now at last on CD, released by Harmonia Mundi, after the highly acclaimed live performance streamed a few months ago.

A First-Ever Recording: Benjamin Godard’s 1890 Opera on Dante and Beatrice

The composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is today largely unknown to most music lovers. Specialist collectors, though, have been enjoying his songs (described as “imaginative and delightful” by Robert Moore in American Record Guide), his Concerto Romantique for violin (either in its entirety or just the dancelike Canzonetta, which David Oistrakh recorded winningly decades ago), and some substantial chamber and orchestral works that have received first recordings in recent years.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

Le Bal des Animaux : Works by Chabrier, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie et al.

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

13 Apr 2005

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde

After playing a few tracks I was reminded of the late Harold Rosenthal’s review of a 1973 Callas and Di Stefano-concert in his own Opera Magazine: “This is one of the saddest reviews I ever had to write.”

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde
Marc Deaton (Tristan), Susan Marie Pierson (Isolde), Gwendolyn Jones (Brangäne), David Malis (Kurwenal), Ethan Herschenfeld (König Marke), Timothy Jon Sarris (Seemann/Melot/Ein Hirt), Peter Yanakov (Ein Steuermann)
Bulgarian Festival Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Glen Cortese
(Live complete performance National Palace of Culture, Sofia, Bulgaria, February 8, 2004)
Titanic Records Ti-261 [4CDs]

After playing a few tracks I was reminded of the late Harold Rosenthal's review of a 1973 Callas and Di Stefano-concert in his own Opera Magazine: "This is one of the saddest reviews I ever had to write."

I looked this set up on Amazon and duly noted that it sold for $57.98 while most critics' favorite set (not mine as I still prefer the Flagstad-Melchior-sets, heavy cuts and less than perfect orchestral sound included) is $20 cheaper (Nilsson, Windgassen, Böhm on DG). And a full-priced set like this one under review should surely have a libretto, which is conspicuously lacking. There are some 35 complete Tristans available and I utterly fail to see what this one can add to one's pleasure in exploring this score. And soon there will be another competitor with Placido Domingo.

Let's tackle the bull straight on. No Tristan is acceptable with such a pair of lead singers. The unknown tenor Marc Deaton could be acceptable in a very small provincial house in Europe or in one or another summer festival in the backwoods of the United States where opera lovers flock to who normally only have their Met radio performances. In those meager circumstances people are often grateful that at least for once they get the possibility of hearing a performance in the house and will almost accept anything. But on record one simply doesn't understand the reason this performance had to be immortalized. Mr. Deaton's is a small lyric sound, pitifully devoid of beauty in tone, volume, top notes etc. in short somewhat of a very poor man's Windgassen. Moreover though the initial heavy vibrato becomes somewhat less during this concert performance the voice is completely overwhelmed in the love duet and becomes a long and painful "geschrei" just to hit the notes. No intelligent treatment of the words (and Mr.Deaton's German is rather good and quite understandable), no acceptable phrasing and some fine diminuendi in Tristan's long death scene can redeem the basic colorless and the forcing and gliding and thinning out of the voice on any note higher than middle F.

His Isolde, soprano Susan Marie Pierson, is slighter better known but the joy of hearing her in this whale of a role is not any greater. The basic voice is not bad, be it a somewhat indistinctly colored sound in that generalized Anglo-Saxon way that makes it so difficult to distinguish one singer from another. Still such singers often have a full workload in Europe as most general managers nowadays want to have their own Ring and their own director with his own concept. They say openly there are no real Wagner singers at the moment and still they persist in programming Tristan or Der Ring as the producer's concept is more important than the sometimes painful sounds on the scene. Therefore there is always a heavy demand for singers just able to overcome an evening of heavy singing. For a few years Brünnhildes like Mrs. Pierson go from here to there until the voice inevitably wears down and the career suddenly is over. The soprano's voice reminds me of Susan Owen's lirico who also specialized in heavy Wagner and whose voice so deteriorated in a few years time that last year she met with the ultimate disaster for any singer. During the Liège Walküre the house didn't whistle or booed; no, people just openly laughed their hearts out at the produced sounds. Mrs. Pierson is still in somewhat better shape but the great killer is already there: the persistent beat throughout the range and some more severe critics wouldn't hesitate and call it a wobble that takes away much of the pleasure. And then there is something sharp even edgy to the voice that sometimes make for painful listening.

I don't suppose anybody ever bought a Tristan und Isolde for Kurwenal or Brangäne, though they are singers on a par with their role. I still remember David Malis winning the BBC's Singer of the World competition in 1985 and at the time I was sure he would go far. Well, he didn't, though it surely was not for having lost his voice. It is well-rounded, warm, even beautiful and he makes the most of his role. Gwendolyn Jones as Brangäne has a good mezzo though somewhat sharp at the top. Apart from Malis the best performance is given by conductor Glen Cortese at the head of a so-called festival Bulgarian orchestra. He paces so well, never lets the attention flag, doesn't indulge himself in overly slow or fast tempi and he never drowns his singers. The sound even slightly favors them though all orchestral details are clear. But why, oh why, was this set published in the first place?

Jan Neckers

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):