Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Giovanni Simon Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

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

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

02 Jul 2005

SCHUBERT: Die Schöne Müllerin

An important thing to realize about this DVD is that it is not so much about Die Schöne Müllerin as about the performers, pianist András Schiff and especially baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. There are no liner notes about the song cycle itself, and if you want to see texts or translations you watch them go by as subtitles during the performance (you may choose German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, or none.). But, since the cycle is quite well-known, largely through the earlier recordings by Fischer-Dieskau with other collaborators, this omission is not grave enough to detract from the real focus of the DVD: to make publicly available a 1991 performance at the Feldkirch Schubertiade, in which two Schubertiade regulars, Fischer-Dieskau and Schiff, performed together for the first time. The record of the performance is doubly significant because, while Fischer-Dieskau earlier in his career had been one of the preeminent performers of Die Schöne Müllerin, he had not performed it since 1971, and he was to retire from public performance two years later.

Franz Schubert: Die Schöne Müllerin
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; András Schiff, piano
Filmed at Schubertiade Feldkirch 1991
TDK DVDUS-CODSM [DVD]

An important thing to realize about this DVD is that it is not so much about Die Schöne Müllerin as about the performers, pianist András Schiff and especially baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. There are no liner notes about the song cycle itself, and if you want to see texts or translations you watch them go by as subtitles during the performance (you may choose German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, or none.). But, since the cycle is quite well-known, largely through the earlier recordings by Fischer-Dieskau with other collaborators, this omission is not grave enough to detract from the real focus of the DVD: to make publicly available a 1991 performance at the Feldkirch Schubertiade, in which two Schubertiade regulars, Fischer-Dieskau and Schiff, performed together for the first time. The record of the performance is doubly significant because, while Fischer-Dieskau earlier in his career had been one of the preeminent performers of Die Schöne Müllerin, he had not performed it since 1971, and he was to retire from public performance two years later.

I have never seen Fischer-Dieskau perform live, but I came to this DVD with great respect for the clarity of emotional expression and the distinctive interpretations that I had heard on his audio recordings. I also had received impressions from people who had seen him perform. A friend had recalled the power of Fischer-Dieskau's live presence when she watched from a seat on the stage behind him, despite the fact that his voice was directed away from her and she never saw his facial expression. By contrast, a voice teacher with a strong preference for lyrical Italianate singing found Fischer-Dieskau too intellectual and mannered in many of his performances. As a recitalist myself who has learned much from Fischer-Dieskau's published scholarship about the songs he has performed, I was very pleased to have this belated opportunity to watch him in recital and form my own impression.

What emerges most strongly in watching this performance is the intense connection between Fischer-Dieskau and the music, the accompanist, and the audience (including the home audience, through the camera). His gestures are rarely specific, but he remains solidly grounded while leaning forward, turning toward the accompanist, or resting his hands on the piano lid, and his face is particularly expressive, vividly articulating the endings of "Tränenregen" and "Trockne Blumen", to mention just two moments. The music appears to pose no great difficulties for his voice, the tops of some phrases perhaps a bit less smooth than in a recording with Gerald Moore made decades earlier, but there is plenty of lovely tone color and dynamic control.

The DVD includes a 20-minute film of a conversation between Fischer-Dieskau and Franz Zoglauer, augmented by some narration about Fischer-Dieskau's approach to recitals, a visit to an exhibition of some of his paintings, and a brief interview with the singer's son, who was playing the cello as part of an ensemble during the 1985 Schubertiade. The conversation is wide-ranging and sheds additional light upon Fischer-Dieskau's approach to this performance, when he says he views any recording as a snapshot of a single moment, and that in any performance he aims for a spontaneous interpretation, influenced by what he senses in the accompaniment and even the audience. Some of this process is evident on the DVD performance, as the repetition of "das Wandern, das Wandern", which ends the first strophe of the first piece, is almost too obviously taken as simply a softer echo, but by the end of the cycle, the changes worked by the performers on each repeated strophe of the final song sensitively recall each aspect of the cycle's simple, sad story. So, despite the DVD's lack of helpful notes to connect the twenty-first century viewer with the Romantic tale of lost innocence, a story so naïaut;ve that even the poet Müller felt a need to gently distance himself from it, we can still connect through Schubert's wholehearted musical setting and the performers' detailed expression of it. If you have been fortunate enough to enjoy a live recital by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau during his career, this disk may provide a valuable reminder of the experience. For those of us who will never have that opportunity, this disk is a gift.

Barbara Miller


The legendary German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (b. 1925) made four studio recordings of Franz Schubert's song cycle, Die schöne Müllerin — two for EMI, and two for DGG, all but one with the great accompanist, Gerald Moore. That final recording (DGG) took place in 1971. For the next 20 years, Fischer-Dieskau neither performed nor recorded the piece.

In June of 1991, Fischer Dieskau and pianist András Schiff collaborated on a performance of Die schöne Müllerin at the Schubertiade Feldkirch. That performance was recorded by Austrian television. Thanks to the approval of the artists, it has been issued by TDK in honor of Fischer-Dieskau's 80th birthday.

In many ways, I think it's best to avoid comparisons of this 1991 recital with the studio recordings. At the time of the Schubertiade Feldkirche recital, Fischer-Dieskau was 66, and had been performing for almost 45 years. It would be dishonest to suggest that his voice on this occasion comes close to matching the freshness of those earlier renditions. It also takes Fischer-Dieskau a bit of time to warm up, with some pitch difficulties and breath control problems early on. For the most part however, these flaws disappear over the course of the cycle.

Even with all these reservations, I found this Schöne Müllerin to be an extraordinarily moving document. Despite the reduced vocal forces at his disposal, Fischer-Dieskau gives an unforgettable performance. I particularly recommend this DVD to people who view Fischer-Dieskau as an overly intellectual singer, who often italicizes the text and music at the expense of its overall flow. Here, Fischer-Dieskau relies on his gorgeous diction, impeccable legato, and subtle inflection of the text to the greatest effect. Likewise, Fischer-Dieskau's stage presence manages to find the perfect balance of elegance, dignity, and dramatic involvement. The singer's facial expressions alone are worth the price of this DVD. Overall, my impression of Fischer Dieskau's interpretation was one of nostalgic recollection, as opposed to a contemporaneous narrative. In that context, I found it most compelling, and a highly worthwhile addition to Fischer-Dieskau's body of recorded work.

The compelling nature of this performance is due in great part to the contribution of Fischer-Dieskau's accompanist, the superb pianist András Schiff. As in any great lieder performance, the term "accompanist" is inappropriate. Schiff plays exquisitely throughout, with a constant attention to the shifting colors that reflect the cycle's dramatic flow. It is also clear that Fischer-Dieskau and Schiff view this cycle as almost a duet for voice and piano. Time and again, Fischer-Dieskau and Schiff match the timbres and inflections of their instruments to create almost a single entity. This sense of partnership is reinforced by Fischer-Dieskau's frequent and often touching glances to his partner.

The straightforward camerawork by Austrian Television complements the understated eloquence of this performance. The sound is excellent as well. The DVD also includes a 1985 interview with Fischer-Dieskau by Franz Zoglauer, illustrated by samples of Fischer-Dieskau's recordings, performances, and paintings. The DVD includes English, French, and Italian subtitles for both the song cycle and the interview.

I think that admirers of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau will find this Schöne Müllerin an inspiring and moving document. For those wishing to hear Fischer-Dieskau in this glorious cycle for the first time, I would first seek out one of the studio recordings, all of which have considerable merit. But in the final analysis, I would urge all admirers of lieder and master singing to give this DVD a try.

Kenneth H. Meltzer

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):