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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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
08 Jun 2005
Boris Christoff — Lugano Recital 1976
Boris Christoff was, together with Cesare Siepi, the most prominent bass during The New Golden Age of Singing (1945-1975). At the time of this television recording, he was considered somewhat old hat as he had been singing for more than 30 years. During the mid-sixties he was superseded by Nicolai Ghiaurov who, due to his rolling voice and bigger volume, quickly became the hottest ticket in town. Both men were Bulgarians and there was pure hate between them; especially from Christoff’s side. Christoff was a protégé of the deceased king Boris. He studied in Italy and was not allowed to return home after the war when the communists had snatched power. He didn’t even get a visa to attend his father’s funeral. Ghiaurov was sent to Italy by the communists for further study. Their confrontations as Filippo and Grande Inquisitore in a La Scala Don Carlos are still legendary. Nobody had ever witnessed such (real) hatred in that scene. Afterwards, Christoff demanded that Ghiaurov be ousted but sovrintende Ghiringhelli sided with the younger bass and Christoff’s career at La Scala was finished.
Boris Christoff — Lugano Recital 1976.
Arias and Songs by Mussorgski, Rossini, Mozart and Verdi.
Orchestra della Svizzera italiana, Bruno Amaducci (cond.).
Introduction and interviews by Giorgio Gualerzi.
Dynamic 33476 [DVD]
Boris Christoff was, together with Cesare Siepi, the most prominent bass during The New Golden Age of Singing (1945-1975). At the time of this television recording, he was considered somewhat old hat as he had been singing for more than 30 years. During the mid-sixties, he was superseded by Nicolai Ghiaurov who, due to his rolling voice and bigger volume, quickly became the hottest ticket in town. Both men were Bulgarians and there was pure hate between them; especially from Christoff's side. Christoff was a protégé of the deceased king Boris. He studied in Italy and was not allowed to return home after the war when the communists had snatched power. He didn't even get a visa to attend his father's funeral. Ghiaurov was sent to Italy by the communists for further study. Their confrontations as Filippo and Grande Inquisitore in a La Scala Don Carlos are still legendary. Nobody had ever witnessed such (real) hatred in that scene. Afterwards, Christoff demanded that Ghiaurov be ousted but sovrintende Ghiringhelli sided with the younger bass and Christoff's career at La Scala was finished.
Now that both men are deceased (Christoff died in 1993 and Ghiaurov in 2004), historical perspective has taken its place and it is clear that Christoff was the more imaginative singer and a better one as well, as he kept his voice in better shape far longer than did Ghiaurov. At the time of this live Lugano recital for Swiss television, the older singer was already 62 and, though he cannot quite hide his age, there is still a lot to enjoy. At first there is a somewhat hollow sound and it seems as if higher notes come easier than lower ones. The characteristic timbre, which was Christoff's glory, is somewhat absent. This could be any good Slav bass.
Things improve a bit in "La calunnia" but it's only in "Wer ein Liebchen" that the old, well-known black sound to our relief (and probably Christoff's as well) is back. His great monologue from Don Carlos is very fine though he sometimes has to take an extra breath (In "Amor per me non ha" he takes three); but there is the noble uttering and an even more rounded and finer pianissimo than in his many commercial recordings.
His death of Boris is still the yard stick with which other singers are measured. There is something strange in that scene. He is clearly singing with all his force (no synchro) but nevertheless one hears a chorus that is not on the scene and indeed not even mentioned. So I wonder if this was mixed in later. It's well possible as this is a European TV-broadcast. TV-directors in those times still thought of themselves as artists instead of craftsmen (indeed, a lot of them still do) and they would always try to apply their artistic touch and so-called sensitivity. (I was a TV reporter and producer at Flemish Public TV at that time and I remember too well the many fights as I wanted these gentlemen to do my bidding instead of theirs). There are a few fine examples to be found in this recording. During the climactic phrases of King Philip's aria, the camera is fixed for almost twenty seconds on the conductor instead of the singer. The moment Christoff has sung his last utterances in Boris, we get a fake 19th-Century drawing of the Tsar during the postlude and the ensuing applause and we are not allowed to see Christoff during his well-deserved bows.
At the occasion of this concert, young Giorgio Gualerzi interviewed Christoff and I'm fairly sure it was the original director, and not Dynamic, who mixed parts of this interview during the concert proper. Half an hour of singing in one stretch was probably not artistic enough. Gualerzi proves himself to be a pedantic and bad interviewer, always ready to interrupt Christoff. The bass himself has some interesting things to say on older singers ("our professors" he calls their recordings) and modern composers (a hilarious story on Hindemith) who he clearly despised.
The sound of this DVD is excellent and the images are acceptable for the times: not too well focused and a little bit whitewashed. This is not Dynamic's fault. The seventies and eighties are a disaster for TV-archives. When we switched from film to video, we used all kinds of sizes and we didn't take precautions for storing. Theoretically, each recording ought to have been copied and recopied each year to keep the colour quality. No broadcasting company ever thought of doing this (and it would have been horrendously expensive) and so five or ten years later the images of many historical happenings had almost deteriorated into oblivion.
Compared with those sad losses, this DVD is still eminently viable. As there are so few documents available on this giant of a singer (the Napoli Forza and a few B/W features), even this registration of an older Christoff is a must.