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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.
15 Jul 2005
RACHMANINOV: Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op.13; The Isle of the Dead, Op.29.
The initial reception of Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 1 marked an unhappy yet decisive moment in the composer's life, one that propelled his stylistic development and the trajectory of his career in new directions.
The March 1897 premiere under the direction of Aleksandr Glasunov was a spectacular failure that prompted a shower of criticism, including Cesar Cui's oft-cited quip that the work would thrill "the inhabitants of hell." The symphony's reception deeply affected Rachmaninov, plunging him into a long depression, during which time he all but ceased composing and instead began to hone his skills as a conductor. Although the symphony was never performed again during the composer's lifetime, it has made a comeback since its rediscovery in 1945. And rightly so: As this recording aptly demonstrates, the work has much to offer the listener (a majority of the initial negative reception was likely the result of Glasunov's supposed intoxicated state at the premiere and the disastrous outcome this undoubtedly had on the performance). This work will be refreshing and perhaps a bit surprising to those familiar only with Rachmaninov's later output. The debt to Chaikovsky and Borodin is quite distinct, especially noticeable in Rachmaninov's concern for formal and motivic unity, although the seeds of the rapturous melody and thick, sonorous textures of his more mature orchestral style lurk not far beneath the surface.
In this recording, Mariss Jansons leads the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, where he has been Associate Principal Conductor since 1985. One of Russia's most venerable and highly respected ensembles, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic (known during Soviet times as the Leningrad Philharmonic), cultivated its unsurpassed skill during five decades under the baton of the legendary Evgeny Mravinsky. Listeners of Jansons recording will not be disappointed: the orchestra still packs a mighty punch and its dark, string-dominated sound is the perfect match for Rachmaninov's music. The orchestra's precision shines through most remarkably in the symphony's extroverted finale, and also makes for some thrilling passages in the development of the first movement.
Paired with the First Symphony on this recording is the composer's symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead (Ostrov myortvykh). The work dates from a period of increasing political unrest in Imperial Russia that prompted Rachmaninov to resign from his conducting post at the Bolshoi Theater in February 1906 and spend an increasing amount of time abroad. After first exiling himself to Pisa, the composer then settled briefly in Dresden, where he completed The Isle of the Dead in 1909. The work draws its title and inspiration from a painting by Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin, whose eerily gloomy depiction of a pall-draped casket being transported by boat to a remote island captured Rachmaninov's imagination. The work bears a number of distinctive features: The opening section is set in 5/8 meter, evocative of the gentle lilting of the boat depicted in Böcklin's painting. The Isle of the Dead is also one of the first works in which Rachmaninov quotes the Dies irae — the chant that laces so many of his later compositions. Moreover, the soaring melody and luxurious textures that were latent in the First Symphony reveal themselves in full-blown magnificence in The Isle of the Dead, making the two works offered on this CD a most satisfying pairing. As with the symphony, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic performs beautifully in this work and Jansons delivers Rachmaninov's rich sonorities brilliantly, if at times the woodwind and brass color is a bit covered. The current recording is one of EMI's recent re-releases on their budget line "Encore," making this CD an all-around exceptional buy.
Kevin Michael Bartig
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill