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 Jul 2005
Claudio Abbado: Hearing the Silence — Sketches for a Portrait
Five minutes into this DVD there has been a lot of talk on Abbado’s aura, his aristocratic reserve and the fact that he is a private thinker. With a deep sigh I was reminded of some of those dreadful documentaries on Arte (a German-French arts channel which I have on cable) that have promising titles and then soon lose themselves in a lot of philosophical treatises without any real content. And what was almost the last image of this documentary?: “In collaboration with Arte”
Claudio Abbado: Hearing the Silence — Sketches for a Portrait
Produced and directed by Paul Smaczny
TDK Euroarts 2053278 [DVD]
Five minutes into this DVD there has been a lot of talk on Abbado's aura, his aristocratic reserve and the fact that he is a private thinker. With a deep sigh I was reminded of some of those dreadful documentaries on Arte (a German-French arts channel which I have on cable) that have promising titles and then soon lose themselves in a lot of philosophical treatises without any real content. And what was almost the last image of this documentary?: "In collaboration with Arte"
Subtitles like "hearing the silence" and "sketches" and not a portrait itself should have warned me and they keep their promises: lots and lots of vague high-minded talk with some hidden nuggets. After ten minutes into this experience we get some footage of 1968 in an interview with Marcel Prawy, the recently deceased grand old man of opera in Austria. Prawy asks some simple but really interesting questions and so we learn that Abbado as a young music student in Vienna was not allowed to attend rehearsals with the great conductors on the roster. His solution was simple: with his good bass-baritone he became a temporary member of the chorus and saw the great men in action. End of the historical footage. But an interviewer really interested in Abbado's art would have asked what he learned, if indeed he learned anything, by watching Karajan and Walter. And another inevitable question would have been: how did his own singing experiences influence his behaviour towards his singers in his many operatic performances? Nothing of this at all. The only moment we see Abbado conducting an opera is during a less typical performance of Elektra and there is no comment at all on the problems of that difficult relationship between stage and pit, of Abbado's vision on "Das Regietheater."
Of course there are a lot of interviews with some of his players and here too it is strange to note that nobody offers hard facts on Abbado's stick technique, his downbeat or other important signs of music making. We learn that everybody calls him Claudio and not maestro, that he is very democratic, charismatic, etc. but what does that tell us? Indeed, the only really interesting details are given by Abbado himself for 30 seconds and strangely enough by his friend and actor Bruno Ganz who has studied Abbado's gestures during a concert. In exchange Ganz may expand on every question of life and death, recite German poems of Hölderlin (admired by Abbado) so that the director can show some landscapes and tell us there were problems with composer Luigi Nono. What kind of problems? That's not for us to know. Ganz has almost as much to tell as Abbado himself and we should not forget that the actor is "hot" as he played (not too well in my opinion) the title role in "Der Untergang," the movie about Hitler's last days.
There is a lot of footage on Abbado's concerts and there at last we can see for ourselves how he leads with his eyes and the "pa, pa, pa" sounds he makes. But it is not clear why this or that piece is chosen. No one ever asks the conductor which kind of composers he prefers or why he conducts this and not that. It comes as a kind of surprise in this philosophical entertainment that such worldly themes as his illness — he was diagnosed with cancer 4 years ago — pop up though he now distinctly looks better than a few years ago when, with superhuman strength, he continued conducting and one feared he would not finish some concerts. We also learn that he left the Berliner Symphoniker of his own accord in 2002, though it is a lifetime post. Of course everybody deeply regrets his decision and there is no dissenting voice to tell some of the less savoury stories. The orchestra deeply loved its maestro but it loved something more: money. For one or another reason (a saturated market; Abbado's simplicity and humility compared with his predecessor's incessant marketing of himself) Abbado's records didn't sell well: often only a few thousand copies were sold worldwide. At one time, the Berliner and Abbado were even relegated to accompanying the love couple's (Alagna-Gheorgiu) Verdi duets. That didn't sit well with an orchestra that remembered too well the rich pickings on the record market during Karajan's era. The grumbling and his illness were reasons enough for Abbado to keep the honour of resigning to himself. All in all, this DVD is a missed chance.