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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.
11 Jun 2005
In a certain sense, each of Carl Maria von Weber's final three operas: Der Freischütz, Euryanthe, and Oberon belongs to a different genre. Freischütz — the only one of these three that still in any way forms a part of the repertoire — builds on the folk-like traditions of the Singspiel, while Euryanthe is more closely related to the grand operas that were to become so important in the 1830s and 1840s.
Oberon is an example of the Märchenoper, evoking on one hand the orientalism of Die Entführung aus dem Serail and on the other the fairy-tale fantasy of Die Zauberflöte. The opera even includes a chorus in which a chorus of slaves involuntarily dances to the music of a magic horn, much like Monastatos and his minions involuntarily dance to the music of Papageno's bells.
The opera contains a great deal of magnificent music, and is perhaps best known for the imaginative and coloristic musical gestures through which Weber creates the image of a fantastic medieval/Oriental world. Although the opera was frequently performed in the early and mid nineteenth century, it eventually fell out of the repertoire, in part because of insoluble problems with the plot. Weber wrote the opera for London, and the libretto (in English, by Planché) is a nearly incomprehensible mishmash of elements derived from Wieland's late eighteenth-century epic poem Oberon. There have been many attempts to overcome the inadequacies of the libretto: most of these have involved the composition of new recitatives to replace the original dialogue, or the insertion of various pieces from some of Weber's other operas. This recording dispenses with all of the added recitatives (and the dialogues as well), so that the opera appears as a series of largely disconnected musical numbers. This is probably a net gain for the work as a whole, for it has the effect of focusing attention on Weber's imaginative and coloristic music.
Even though the original language of the opera was English, Weber's Oberon has had far more performances in German, and that is the language in which the performances recorded on this set are sung. The main part of the set is a live recording of a concert performance from 1978, in which Eve Queler conducted the Opera Orchestra of New York. The set also includes five "bonus tracks" from a 1972 recording conducted by Rafael Kubelik (with Renè Kollo in the lead tenor role)
The OONY recording has all the advantages and drawbacks that go along with live performance. It is a record of what was surely an extraordinary evening, and in certain numbers (such as the third-act Rondo for the tenor "Ich juble in Gluck und Hoffnung neu!") the recording has the energy and excitement that is too often absent from studio sessions. But there are also distracting coughs during the overture, and (more importantly) a certain veiled quality to much of the orchestral sound. While the brass instruments that shine forth brightly (a big advantage in an opera that features a magic horn), the strings often sound muddy and distant. The Dessoff Choir sounds as if they are singing in another room -- it is nearly impossible to make out their words. The recording engineer had difficulties getting the levels right, and there is occasional distortion in the louder sections. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of beautiful singing and playing here, and the recording should be of great interest not only to specialists, but to all opera lovers.
One of the principal attractions for record collectors will be the presence of Nicolai Gedda in the lead tenor role of Hüon -- the role, incidentally, with which he made his Paris Opera debut in 1954. His rendition of the great first-act aria "Von Jugend auf in dem Kampfgefild" is stirring and spectacular, alternating between heroism and transfigured tenderness. But Gedda's singing is by no means faultless. Like the role of Max in Der Freischütz, Hüon is often treated as part of the Heldentenor Fach; indeed, both of these roles are highly dramatic and declamatory. But in contrast to Wagner, Weber writes a great deal of coloratura for his dramatic tenors, and here is where Gedda's approach leaves something to be desired. The voice often sounds as if it is under too much pressure, and the florid passages are consequently labored. In this recording, Gedda is at his best when he sings pianissimo, as in the second-act prayer "Vater! Hör mich fleh'n zu dir!"
Another interpretation of the lead tenor role appears in the bonus tracks at the end of this set, one of which is Kollo's 1972 recording of "Von Jugend auf in dem Kampfgefild." Kollo's approach is distinctively German: the sound is highly compressed and strongly articulated from the throat, and this reviewer preferred Gedda's more Italianate vocal style.
The OONY recording also features the soprano Betty Jones in the role of Rezia. Jones's voice is clearly enormous, and her upper range is remarkably free and clear. She is at her best in the aria "Ozean, du Ungeheurer!" (probably the most famous part of the score). Her performance is unfortunately marred by occasionally pitch problems, and a tendency to let her vibrato get out of control. This reviewer preferred the taught and muscular soprano sound of Ursula Schröder-Feinen, whose 1972 performance the famous "Ocean aria" appears as one of the "bonus tracks" in this set.
This recording should be of interest to many different audiences: for opera enthusiasts interested in the recording of particular voices, for those who are curious about the development of German opera (or at least, opera by German composers!) between Mozart and Wagner, and for those who have followed Eve Queler's remarkable career. But it is this reviewer's hope that the set will also reach a broader audience. The opera deserves a more prominent place in the repertoire, and the release of this set will hopefully draw attention to a forgotten corner of operatic history.
Dr. Stephen Meyer