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.
16 Jul 2005
In addition, to his popular score to A Midsummer Night's Dream Felix Mendelssohn wrote incidental music to several other plays. Commissioned by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, the incidental music to Athalia was intended for a private performance of the play by Jean Racine.
While the story is a complicated Old Testament plot, Mendelssohn’s music captures the tone of the tragedy with delight, whimsy, and severity.
The final version of Athalia, as presented on this recording, calls for three soloists, full chorus and orchestra, and two orators. Most of the action of the play is delivered by the orators’ narration. Ulrike Goetz and Rudolf Guckelsberger deliver the text in a sure tone with both lilting cadences and strong declamation. The solo and choral movements provide emotional responses to the action and take up roles in the story as well. Like Mendelssohn’s better know dramatic scores, his oratorio Elijah and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the music of Athalia is very vivid and colorful. The music paints a clear picture of the action with sweet melodies of praise, sorrowful laments, and strong contrapuntal choruses of damnation.
Conductor Helmuth Rilling leads the three female soloists, the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, and the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR in a clean, crisp performance. The Gächinger Kantorei sings with an open tone and precise German diction. The sopranos are occasionally a little thin when attempting a soft ethereal sound in the higher register. But overall the choral singing is evenly balanced, precisely in tune, and confidently virile, particularly in the men. Sopranos Letizia Scherrer and Katalin Halmai, and alto Daniela Sindram sing with a strong sense of drama without compromising their beautiful tone. Singing mostly in duets and in concert with the chorus, they all show a subtle sensitivity to ensemble. The orchestra plays equally well bringing a festive flourish to the performance, highlighted by the bright vitality of the brass.
This obscure of work of Mendelssohn is presented handsomely on this Hänssler Classic disc. Helmut Rilling has made a career of researching and performing German choral music and this recording of Athalia maintains his high quality. Extensive program notes outlining the historical and musical background of the work accompany the fine performance. While not a groundbreaking work or recording, Athalia is another example of Mendelssohn’s mastery of evoking specific drama in his music.