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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.
03 Jul 2005
Gerhard Hüsch Sings Die schöne Müllerin & An die ferne Geliebte
With a masterpiece like Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin, each generation of singers seems to rediscover the music and make the work its own. The nature of music almost demands that performers arrive at their own approaches, and the resulting differences offer insights into the way the music works and, perhaps, on how perception functions. With something as familiar as Die schöne Müllerin, it is possible to gain some perspective by listening to the way a singers of earlier generations performed the work to sample it, just as aficionados appreciate wine at vertical tastings. By approaching the music in this manner, it is possible to put the differences in perspective by using the nuances as points of reference where interpretations diverge.
Gerhard Hüsch Sings Die schöne Müllerin & An die ferne Geliebte
Hanssler Classic 94506 [2CDs]
With a masterpiece like Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin, each generation of singers seems to rediscover the music and make the work its own. The nature of music almost demands that performers arrive at their own approaches, and the resulting differences offer insights into the way the music works and, perhaps, on how perception functions. With something as familiar as Die schöne Müllerin, it is possible to gain some perspective by listening to the way a singers of earlier generations performed the work to sample it, just as aficionados appreciate wine at vertical tastings. By approaching the music in this manner, it is possible to put the differences in perspective by using the nuances as points of reference where interpretations diverge.
As indicated in the notes that accompany this release of performances by the baritone Gerhard Hüsch, this singer was the preeminent baritone in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s. He belonged to the generation before Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau established his own reputation as a performer of the same voice type and with the same literature. Thus, audiences accustomed to Fischer-Dieskau's various performances might enjoy hearing the style that preceded him, by a highly respected singer from the first half of the twentieth century.
When the paradigm for performance of Die schöne Müllerin involves Fischer-Dieskau's lyric approach to Die schöne Müllerin, Hüsch's recording stands in contrast for its more dramatic perspective on the song cycle. At times Hüsch is extremely declamatory, with some passages sung with the conversational phrasing that can come with only a native speaker. The style is vivid and immediate, and it is difficult not to become caught up in the singer's immersion in the piece itself. The sound seems dated, and the technology involved with this reissue, as admirable as it is, does not restore the ambiance sufficiently not to merit some comment. The piano appears muffled, as if it were covered, and this does not represent well the facile approach that Udo Müller took in accompanying Hüsch. In fact, Hüsch sounds as though he is singing into the microphone, since the accompaniment comes off as a background sound. This aspect of the Schubert recording certain reflects the time it was made (1935), and even two years later, the performance of Beethoven cycle An die ferne Geliebte (1937) sounds incrementally crisper and slightly more refined.
Yet the sound of the recording should not be an impediment to hearing an historic performance, which is critically esteemed. Anyone interested in Schubert reception will find this CD to be of interest, not just as a curiosity, but for the strong interpretations it preserves. While Hüsch may not be as well known as he was in his day, his legacy is worth attention, especially in these legendary performances of these two major pieces of vocal literature. To put the performance of Schubert cycle in perspective, sample a selection of Hüsch's recording, and then listen to the same pieces from one of Fischer-Dieskau's, not just the famous 1962 recording, but also the ones from the 1950s and the 1970s. Take it further, with the recording by the fine baritone Wolfgang Holzmair, then move forward to recordings by contemporary performers like Matthias Goerne and Thomas Quasthoff, before retuning to Hüsch to understand his legacy.
James L. Zychowicz