Recently in Recordings
Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
14 Jun 2005
Dame Gwyneth Jones sings Wagner
This CD is a digital remastering of an original 1991 recording of Gwyneth Jones in selections from Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde and Götterdämmerung. Jones was (and is) one of the great interpreters of Wagner, and the release of this CD is a welcome event, not only to her many friends, but all of us who are fascinated by the interpretation of Wagner’s works. The recording is clearly meant to serve as a recorded monument to her artistry. Unfortunately, the CD is marred by many problems that make it less than satisfactory.
Dame Gwyneth Jones sings Wagner
Westdeutsche Rundfunk Orchestra of Cologne, Roberto Paternostro (cond.)
Chandos CHAN 10286 X [CD]
This CD is a digital remastering of an original 1991 recording of Gwyneth Jones in selections from Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde and Götterdämmerung. Jones was (and is) one of the great interpreters of Wagner, and the release of this CD is a welcome event, not only to her many friends, but all of us who are fascinated by the interpretation of Wagner's works. The recording is clearly meant to serve as a recorded monument to her artistry. Unfortunately, the CD is marred by many problems that make it less than satisfactory.
As we might expect, the sound engineers for this CD elected to foreground Jones's voice. But they also chose to "iron out" the dynamics, so that the fortes are attenuated and the pianos are amplified. Forte and piano, we might say, are no longer indicators of volume, but rather of color. This has the effect of diminishing the differences between Jones's interpretations of the individual heroines: Elsa and Isolde sound quite similar. Only in a few passages, such as the beginning of Elizabeth's prayer or the end of Brünnhilde's immolation scene, do we get a clear sense of Jones's distinctive approach to these characters.
Sound engineers might also be responsible for the quality of the orchestral sound, which is generally cold, thin, and overly bright. Part of this, however, must be laid at the door of the conductor. Paternostro goes a long way toward making Wagner's music sound banal. This reviewer found Paternostro's interpretation of the Tristan prelude (paired, as we might expect, with the Liebestod) to be the low point of the entire CD. His rather metronomic approach to the score deprives the performance of the sense of large-scale development that is so essential in Wagner. The tempi are rather quick, but somehow the performances seem too long.
One of the most distinctive things about Dame Gwyneth's voice is her approach to vibrato. She often begins a long note without any vibrato at all, adding it quickly in what we might think of as an idiomatic version of the classic mezza di voce. This can be a thrilling effect, but too often, the initial attack is under pitch. Jones's approach sometimes sounds mannered, particularly in the upper part of her range. In other sections, however, the effect is absolutely magical. The opening and the final passages of the Liebestod, for instance, are ravishing. Jones sings the final note in a bell-like pianissimo, without any trace of vibrato at all, producing what can only be called a sonic emblem of transfiguration.
The total time of this CD is only a bit over 55 minutes, and a few of the Wagnerian soprano chestnuts are missing. I would have particularly enjoyed hearing Dame Gwyneth sing Senta's ballad from Der fliegende Holländer and "Der Männer Sippe" from Die Walküre (they are absent from this CD). Despite its inadequacies, this recording is an important document of what is surely one of the great Wagnerian voices of the late twentieth century.
Dr. Stephen Meyer