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.
24 May 2005
Ivan Kozlovsky: The Great Russian Tenor
This new release from Pearl presents an anthology of Russian selections, primarily operatic, performed by tenor Ivan Kozlovsky (1900-1993). Kozlovsky was one of the giants of the Russian operatic stage during its glory days in the 1940s and 50s; he recorded extensively with Melodiya, both Russian and Western repertoire. Surprisingly, however, there has apparently never been a Kozlovsky Russian anthology available prior to this release (Myto Records released a collection of the singer’s Western operatic hits in 2000). It is gratifying to see it finally here.
Ivan Kozlovsky: The Great Russian Tenor
Pearl GEM 0221
This new release from Pearl presents an anthology of Russian selections, primarily operatic, performed by tenor Ivan Kozlovsky (1900-1993). Kozlovsky was one of the giants of the Russian operatic stage during its glory days in the 1940s and 50s; he recorded extensively with Melodiya, both Russian and Western repertoire. Surprisingly, however, there has apparently never been a Kozlovsky Russian anthology available prior to this release (Myto Records released a collection of the singer's Western operatic hits in 2000). It is gratifying to see it finally here.
The singer is featured in some of his signature roles: Berendei (Rimsky-Korsakov, Snow Maiden), Sinodal (Rubinstein, Demon), Levko (Rimsky-Korsakov, May Night), Vladimir Igorevich (Borodin, Prince Igor), Bayan (Glinka, Ruslan and Liudmila), Indian Guest (Rimsky-Korsakov, Sadko), Prince (Dargomïaut;zhsky, Rusalka), Vladimir (Napravnik, Dubrovsky), and of course Lensky (Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin) and the Holy Fool (Mussorgsky, Boris Godunov). A rendition of Rachmaninov's popular art song "Ne poi krasavitsa" ("Oh cease thy singing, maiden fair," op. 4 no. 4), and the same composer's rarely heard setting of Pimen's monologue from Pushkin's Boris Godunov are also included.
The recordings are beautifully remastered, and date from ca. 1947-1953, when the singer was at the height of his vocal power, his fame, and his great rivalry with his colleague at the Bolshoi, Sergei Lemeshev. Perhaps the most overwhelming first impression is Kozlovsky's sound — beautifully lush, full, and rich in overtones, its endless lyrical flow rendered with astonishing flexibility and control, despite occasional tension in the upper register. His diction and phrasing are impeccable. Musical purists should not expect a meticulous approach to the score, however — tempo fluctuations, dramatic rests, and other examples of the old-style operatic "editorializing" abound. For traditional "white tenor" roles represented on Pearl's recording, see primarily the two popular selections from Eugene Onegin, "I love you" and "Whither, whither," as well as a cavatina from Rusalka and an aria from May Night.
Perhaps the most recognizable quality of Kozlovsky's timbre is its slightly narrow, almost reed-like quality, with an ever-present vibrato. An object of unkind jokes late in his life, on these early recordings this tone color is more of an idiosyncrasy that makes for some truly unique interpretations. It is particularly noticeable in the "oriental" selections the singer performs — arias and art songs that evoke an image of exotic "Asian" Russia through gently undulating harmonies, rich ornamentation, and yes, the sound of the solo reeds — oboe, bassoon, and English horn. Look especially for the "Song of the Indian Guest" extolling the treasures of the mysterious East, the aria of young Vladimir Igorevich luxuriating in love with a Polovtsian beauty, the exotic romance of Prince Sinodal, and a passionate appeal to a Georgian maiden by Rachmaninov's unnamed protagonist.
Another notable trait of Kozlovsky's talent is its remarkable versatility in handling not only lyrical, but also character parts. This comes across particularly well in an anthology of excerpts from Russian operas in which, after all, a tenor is rarely the leading man. The singer creates memorable images of old sages — the ancient bard Bayan in Ruslan, and the wise sun-worshipper Tsar Berendei in the Snow Maiden (represented, unfortunately, by his second, less interesting cavatina). The Holy Fool in Boris Godunov is perhaps Kozlovsky's most internationally acclaimed role; Pearl includes an excerpt from the St Basil Scene, complete with the choruses and an appearance by Alexander Pirogov as Boris. For those taken with this selection, the complete recording of the opera (with Nikolai Golovanov conducting) is available from Opera D'oro; Vera Stroeva's 1954 outstanding film version with the same cast is currently out on DVD.
All in all, fans of Kozlovsky's art and connoisseurs of traditional bel canto singing style will no doubt be delighted with the new recording. I would particularly encourage those who are only familiar with the singer's late records, on which his previously incredible control is weakened, while the notorious vibrato is more pronounced, to hear the Pearl selections. A truly great tenor waits to be rediscovered.
University of Missouri at Columbia