Recently in Recordings
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.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity.
Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.
Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a
record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation.
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