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.
03 May 2005
This DVD release, taken from an RAI telecast, documents a 1991 La Scala performance of Verdi’s 1846 opera, based on the life of Attila the Hun. I’ve always felt that early Verdi is one of Riccardo Muti’s greatest strengths. When Muti was Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, I was privileged to see their concert performances of Nabucco and Macbeth. Both featured breathtaking execution, intensity, and momentum.
Giuseppe Verdi: Attila
Samuel Ramey, bass (Attila), Giorgio Zancanaro, baritone (Ezio), Cheryl Studer, soprano, (Odabella), Kaludi Kaludov, tenor (Foresto), Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Riccardo Muti, Conductor.
Opus Arte OA LS3010 D [DVD]
This DVD release, taken from an RAI telecast, documents a 1991 La Scala performance of Verdi's 1846 opera, based on the life of Attila the Hun. I've always felt that early Verdi is one of Riccardo Muti's greatest strengths. When Muti was Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, I was privileged to see their concert performances of Nabucco and Macbeth. Both featured breathtaking execution, intensity, and momentum.
Those same qualities may be found in this La Scala Attila. What a pleasure it is to hear an early Verdi score treated with the same respect as his later masterpieces. Verdi's incisive rhythms and dynamic contrasts — so necessary for maintaining the tension of these early, vibrant works — are given their full due. Muti also elicits a beautiful, singing tone from the La Scala Orchestra, and conducts with a flexibility that belies the "metronome" criticism often leveled at his work. Listen, for example, to the way Muti and tenor Kaludi Kaludov sculpt the grand, ascending phrases of Foresto's Prologue aria. That kind of gratifying collaborative work is evident throughout this performance.
Leading the cast is the superb American bass, Samuel Ramey, in the prime of his career. Atilla is a role that fit Ramey's powerful and gleaming, high bass like a glove. Here, he revels in the part, both vocally and histrionically. Whenever Ramey is on stage, he commands the center of attention, as well he should. A fine document of a great singer in one of his signature roles.
The rest of the singers are a bit more uneven, but each still offers many positive attributes. Cheryl Studer copes well with the fiendish dramatic coloratura of Odabella's music in the Prologue, although the soprano is much happier in the upper reaches of her voice than in the lower, which tends to lose support and focus. The remainder of the opera features more conventional soprano writing, and here, Studer acquits herself admirably. She also brings considerable stage presence to the part.
Giorgio Zancanaro was one of the few singers of his generation who possessed the style, incisive diction, vibrant tone, and free upper register so essential for the great Verdi baritone roles. I wish Zancanaro didn't so frequently resort to aspirates instead of maintaining a true legato, but overall, I can't imagine anyone from the past few decades performing the role of Ezio better. Both the Prologue duet with Attila and Ezio's Act II scene are among the highlights of this performance.
I previously mentioned tenor Kaludi Kaludov's fine singing in the Prologue. Throughout this performance, the tenor gives a well-sung and sensitive account of Foresto. I don't think the consistently bright timbre of his voice is ideal for the role (Carlo Bergonzi once said that a Verdi tenor's voice should have "the color of blood"). But Kuladov uses his resources well, and certainly never a liability.
The video and sound quality of this DVD release are both first-rate. The DVD menu offers the option of English subtitles. The booklet contains a synopsis and Italian libretto.
Recommended particularly for the work of Muti and Ramey. Admirers of the other performers, and of this opera, may purchase this DVD with confidence as well.