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.
29 May 2005
TCHAIKOVSKY: Eugene Onegin
Recently released by TDK, this version of a Tchaikovsky classic was recorded at the Bolshoi Theater in October 2000. Directed by Boris Pokrovsky and conducted by Mark Ermler, the production features Maria Gavrilova as Tatiana, Nikolai Baskov as Lensky, Vladimir Redkin as Onegin, Yelena Novak as Olga, and Aik Martirosyan as Gremin. It is very much a live recording, complete with curtain calls and screaming fans who cheer their favorites after practically every number (to the performers’ credit, there are no encores!).
Peter Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
Maria Gavrilova (Tatyana), Vladimir Redkin (Eugene Onegin), Nikolay Baskov (Lensky), Aik Martirosyan (Prince Gremin), Yelena Novak (Olga), Urina Udalova (Larina), Alexander Arkhipov (Triquet)
Orchestra and Chrus of the Bolshoi Theatre, Mark Ermler (cond.)
Recently released by TDK, this version of a Tchaikovsky classic was recorded at the Bolshoi Theater in October 2000. Directed by Boris Pokrovsky and conducted by Mark Ermler, the production features Maria Gavrilova as Tatiana, Nikolai Baskov as Lensky, Vladimir Redkin as Onegin, Yelena Novak as Olga, and Aik Martirosyan as Gremin. It is very much a live recording, complete with curtain calls and screaming fans who cheer their favorites after practically every number (to the performers' credit, there are no encores!).
Billed as a remake of the 1944 Bolshoi production (conducted by Alexander Melik-Pashaev, it is currently available on CD from Naxos), this is perhaps the most traditional of the four Onegin DVDs that will be available this year. Sets and costumes of the duel scene in particular may remind some viewers of the old black-and-white photographs that feature Kozlovsky as the tenor lead. Boris Pokrovsky's work is typical of this director: his Onegin is a realistic costumed drama with lively crowd scenes and plenty of stage business. There are some nice touches: for instance, in the opening scene, Madame Larina, all aflutter at the arrival of unexpected guests, pretends to read a book while holding it upside down, which Olga promptly corrects. Very few directing ideas are what one would consider revisionist. The only significant one occurs at the end of the duel scene, when Lensky appears to make a gesture of reconciliation, walking toward his opponent with his arms outstretched; Onegin, without noticing, fires the fatal shot.
Overall, Onegin's coldness and indifference are perhaps over-emphasized throughout Acts 1 and 2 (after his "sermon" to Tatiana in Tableau 3 he looks positively smug), which makes his sudden transformation into a passionate lover in the final scenes rather unconvincing. The fault may not lie with the director here, however: Redkin's stage presence is stiff and reserved, while the voice is adequate but hardly memorable. Gavrilova's Tatiana is more likable. Her voice is pleasant, with clear, pure tone in the high register; projection is sometimes an issue in the middle and low ones. On stage, the singer seems more comfortable as the dignified and refined St Petersburg socialite of Act 3 than as the shy country girl of the opening tableaux. In the latter, her repetitive gestures and perpetually ecstatic facial expression tend to get tiresome, although there are some nice moments with the Nurse just before the Letter Scene.
Novak's Olga and Baskin's Lensky sing well and look their parts. Novak is young, blond, coquettish, and carefree; her strong, deep contralto is as surprising a contradiction to her image now as it must have been at the opera's 1879 premiere. Baskin is striking, mannered, and just a touch melodramatic, which Lensky's music frankly invites. One only wishes that in the ball scene the singer would refrain from smiling so sweetly at his audience as he complains about his girlfriend's betraying him with his best friend. Martirosyan as Prince Gremin shines in his single aria in Tableau 6. Other minor characters support the ensemble well, although the acting varies from stereotypical but acceptable (Udalova's Larina) to truly atrocious (Borisova's Nurse).
In a recent and most unfortunate Bolshoi tradition, the orchestral sound is heavy and loud, with the musicians occasionally finding it hard to stay in tune and in time. Equally predictably, the choristers seem constantly on the lookout both for each other and the beat. The ballet is as fine as ever; in the 4th-tableau ball sequence, Pokrovsky does a nice job mixing the corps with the singing characters, which provides lively action, albeit mostly by way of comic relief.
As for the technical aspects of the release, the DVD features include an easy-to-navigate menu with a select-a-scene option, a choice of different sound formats, and subtitles in multiple languages. Overall, this is a decent enough traditional introduction to Tchaikovsky's opera for those unfamiliar with it (say, for a class of college students); for a connoisseur, I would suggest checking out the new version with Dyadkova and Leiferkus, which will be out on Kultur label later this month.
University of Missouri at Columbia