Recently in Recordings
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.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
02 Jun 2005
KILAR: Tryptyk (The Triptych)
Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932) is an exciting composer from Poland, and he may be best known in the West for his film scores, which include Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Polanski’s Death and the Maiden (1994), Campion’s Portrait of a Lady (1996) and others. At the same time, Kilar also composes concert music, and his Tryptyk (1997) is a fine example of his work. Nevertheless, film is a useful point of reference in discussions of his style, since some of the techniques he used in creating effective soundtracks may be found in his other music.
Wojciech Kilar: Tryptyk (The Triptych).
Izabella Klosinska (Soprano), Antoni Wit, conductor, Warsaw Philharmonic Chorus, Polish Radio/TV Symphony Orchestra.
DUX 0484 [CD]
Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932) is an exciting composer from Poland, and he may be best known in the West for his film scores, which include Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), Polanski's Death and the Maiden (1994), Campion's Portrait of a Lady (1996) and others. At the same time, Kilar also composes concert music, and his Tryptyk (1997) is a fine example of his work. Nevertheless, film is a useful point of reference in discussions of his style, since some of the techniques he used in creating effective soundtracks may be found in his other music.
Assembled into a single piece for a festival performance of the Wratislavia Kantans (on 16 June 1997 at Mary Magdelene Orthodox Church, Warsaw), Kilar's Tryptyk is essentially a cantata in three movements: (1) Bogurodzica (1975); (2) Angelus (1984); and (3) Exodus (1981). While the individual movements were composed at different times, they fit together well, thus evoking the traditional image of the medieval style of painting an altarpiece as a triptych, where the panels have their own character and yet create a stunning effect when perceived as a unit. Kilar did not create a program for this work, but the religious tone of the texts suggests a sense of spirituality that conveys feelings of hope and, ultimately, triumphant joy.
The final movement is, perhaps, the most evocative, since its structure is based on a gradually increasing intensity of dynamics and scoring. It is a musical procession in the sense of Respighi, whose Pines of Rome contains a comparable, albeit shorter, passage. With Kilar, though, the music unfolds more slowly, which ultimately contributes to the exuberant ending. The sung text is from the Old Testament book of Exodus, and specifically Miriam's song of triumph after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea into safety, with the pursuing Egyptian army drowned when the waters flowed back together. One of the most effective moments is near the end of the piece, when the choral forces shift from sung text to voiced shouts. The change from pitched to unpitched sounds suggests a dramatic scene so that when the music resumes at the end, its return forms a satisfying conclusion with its final "Hosanna."
Such a use of the spoke — or shouted — voice in this movement has a parallel in the second, which begins with the choral recitation of the prayer "Hail Mary" in Polish. It starts softly, with a few voices, and in the numerous repetitions, subtly gains intensity, until the initially humble prayer becomes a vociferous shout. At that point Kilar shifts to traditional sounds, starting with an effective passage for soprano solo. The effect is cinematic and extremely effective, especially when Kilar eventually combines bells and other percussion into his score.
The kind of dramatic shift in timbre that is part of the "Angelus" is crucial to the first movement, the medieval text "Bogurodzica," which is framed by extended passages for percussion. The martial tone of the percussion intersects the vocal music, and the chorus is asked to create ts own percussive sounds as piece begins. After the interplay of these elements, the choral setting of the medieval hymn at the core of this piece is effective in its subtle rendering of the text. It is a dramatic and compelling piece, like the other movements of this remarkable work.
Anton Wit conducts the work, and the musical forces he leads, the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, give a fine performance. The soprano Isabela K