Recently in Recordings
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.
16 Sep 2005
ADÈS: Piano Quintet
Despite his relative youth (b.1971), Thomas Adès is well-known among today’s serious opera connoisseurs for his 1995 opera hit, Powder Her Face, as well as his more recent opera, The Tempest, which opened in February 2004 to rave reviews. The success of these imaginative, ground-breaking compositions has led him to be recognized as one of Britain’s most promising young composers. As such, Adès has enjoyed the privilege of having his music performed by only the highest caliber of musicians. The featured performers in the 2005 EMI Classics release of his Piano Quintet (2001) are no exception.
A convincing performance of Adès’ Piano Quintet is a formidable challenge to even the most seasoned and notable chamber players. Adès demands impeccable technical ability from each individual player, challenging the limitations of the stringed instruments, forcing performers to achieve new levels of technical ability, particularly in the first violin part. Fortunately for the listener, Irvine Arditti of the Arditti Quartet rises to meet that challenge delivering a seemingly flawless performance that evenly maintains the tone and timbre, even in passages executed in an unusually high register. Re-emphasizing Arditti’s command of the violin in this setting, it should be noted that his playing was confident and unwavering throughout.
The piece itself takes audiences on a journey, beginning with tonal, melodic lines that often mirror themselves. Gradually, the individual parts begin traveling in different meters, depriving listeners of a pulse they can hold on to, particularly in the more subdued development section. In an energetic final section, the instruments converge with material from the exposition, only this time, with an infusion of energy characterized by a much faster tempo and stronger dynamics. Although mentally taxing at times, the work was genuinely satisfying as well as impressive.
Overall, the most impressive feature of the Adès performance is not the unquestioned technical abilities of the performers, but rather the holistic experience of listening to five instrumentalists sharing a defined musical vision. In other words, the different personalities (including that of Thomas Adès playing the piano) came to a mutual understanding, so that all members shared the same interpretation for each of the numerous musical ideas presented, maintaining these congruencies throughout the work. In doing so, the ensemble had to master an unforgiving score which often required that each individual performer execute their passages in different meters simultaneously, the effect of which was both disconcerting and dramatic. Thomas Adès provides audiences with an authoritative performance of a strikingly original work.
In this recording, Franz Schubert’s well-known “Trout” Quintet appropriately complements Adès’ more contemporary work. Exemplifying Schubert’s forward-thinking compositional style, the “Trout” Quintet demonstrates how infusing classical forms with unconventional, yet delightful musical inventions can result in the creation of a highly revered classic. Thomas Adès joins members of the Belcea Quartet and bassist Corin Long in delivering an energetic and pleasurable performance of Schubert’s timeless classic.
Overall, the performance was energetic and engaging, emphasizing Schubert’s more “romantic” side. In many of the more lyrical passages, the first violinist exaggerated the phrasing somewhat more than the other instrumentalists, and often infused the performance with added intensity using very fast vibrato. Overall, one can expect a very satisfying performance from the violinist, although occasionally, overshadowing the more delicate and gentle deliveries from the other players. At times, it almost seemed as though the violinist is gifted with tremendous soloistic qualities that may be a bit too pronounced in a chamber setting.
Among things to look forward to in the Schubert are beautiful and well balanced lyrical lines from the viola and cello. The string bass provides solid rhythmic accompaniment with a warm tone. Tempos for the first and third movements are generally on the fast side, lending the performance some excitement. For those familiar with this Schubert signature, and even for those who have yet to experience this legendary quintet, this recording is both enjoyable and rewarding.
M. Nathalie Hristov
University of Tennessee