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 May 2005
The Very Best of Beverly Sills
EMI Classics’ release of The Very Best of Bevery Sills is a mixed bag. Unlike similar EMI compilations of Maria Callas, Mirella Freni, or Lucia Popp, who all present an array of signature arias or art songs, this release should be re-titled Some of Beverly Sills’ Opera Scenes and a Few Arias. Though Sills performs with an impressive cast, including Alfredo Kraus, Nicolai Gedda, Sherrill Milnes, and Samuel Ramey, this recording would be much more satisfying if is showcased more of signature Sills.
The Very Best of Beverly Sills
Beverly Sills (soprano) sings arias from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia; Verdi's Rigoletto; Donizetti's Don Pasquale; Lehar's Merry Widow; Massenet's Thais; Rossini's L'assedio di Corinto; Verdi's La traviata.
The Very Best of the Singers series.
EMI Classics 863172 [2CDs]
EMI Classics' release of The Very Best of Bevery Sills is a mixed bag. Unlike similar EMI compilations of Maria Callas, Mirella Freni, or Lucia Popp, who all present an array of signature arias or art songs, this release should be re-titled Some of Beverly Sills' Opera Scenes and a Few Arias. Though Sills performs with an impressive cast, including Alfredo Kraus, Nicolai Gedda, Sherrill Milnes, and Samuel Ramey, this recording would be much more satisfying if is showcased more of signature Sills.
The CD is divided into a few of her famous roles, featuring an aria or two from each role as well as several pivotal scenes from the opera. Highlighted roles include Rosina of Il barbiere di Siviglia, Gilda of Rigoletto, Norina of Don Pasquale, and Violetta of La traviata. A few arias are randomly included on the second CD, such as "Vilia", "Dis-moi que je suis belle", and "Cielo! Che diverro?... Ah! Che spiegar."
If this recording's intention was to focus on bel canto repertoire, it has made a grave mistake forgetting Sill's premier roles in Lucia Di Lammermoor, Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Roberto Devereux. What about her excellent interpretation of French repertoire — Manon, Faust, La Fille Du Regiment, or The Tales of Hoffman? What about her world premier role Baby Doe? This is hardly The Best of Beverly Sills.
Despite faults in recording choices, Sills still exhibits vocal mastery and sensitive musicianship. The recordings span from 1972-1979, from the height of her career toward retirement. Changes in suppleness of her voice are apparent throughout the disc. Her Rosina and Violetta, recorded in 1975 and 1972 respectively, reveal a silvery line, crystalline tone, appropriate weight of the voice, and masterful phrasing. Her coloratura in "Una voce poco fa" is very impressive, especially when executing scalar runs from a well-endowed chest voice to the stratosphere. Everything from her La traviata excerpts is magnificent, from the buoyant line in "Sempre libre" to her audible distraught phrasing in "Ah! Dite alla giovine."
Recordings from the end of her career reveal reasons why the end was coming. Excerpts from Rigoletto expose a more brittle sound, wider vibrato, and a less brilliant top. However, her "Caro Nome" still stuns the listener with virtuosic trilling, masterful messa di voce, silky lyricism, and impeccable staccato. The vocal weight in this aria brings back memories of an earlier, more youthful Sills, and is entirely appropriate for the role of Gilda. Only in the final cadenza does she punch the coloratura and add too much weight.
There are many compilations of Beverly Sill's best recordings, and this is not one of them. Fortunately, EMI has a previous release entitled The Art of Beverly Sills which features all of her signature arias from the height of her career.