Recently in Recordings
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.
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?
26 Sep 2005
On Wings of Jewish Songs — Music from the New Jewish School
Yiddish is a language based on medieval German that developed separately from modern German. It spread throughout Eastern Europe, where it acquired words from Hebrew, as well as Russian, Polish, and other Slavic languages.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, serious writers such as Sholem Aleichem, Chaim Nachman Bialik, and Mendele Moicher Sforim produced poetry, stories, and novels in Yiddish that captured the imagination of Jews worldwide. At the same time, Jews became conscious of a repertoire of songs and melodies--old ones passed down from earlier generations and new ones that sprang up--in Yiddish, as well as sacred music in Hebrew. Collections of such music were published, beginning in the early twentieth century and continuing till today.
What is called the “New Jewish School of Music” has its roots in these secular and sacred songs, which from the early twentieth century were also used by “serious” or “classical” composers. For this recording, the artists have chosen 36 items that date primarily from the first half of the twentieth century, some for solo piano, most for voice and piano.
The singer featured on this CD is the American-born and -educated mezzo-soprano Helene Schneidermann, who has been with the Stuttgart State Opera for more than twenty years. She has performed dozens of roles in opera houses in the United States, Europe, and Israel, including Carmen, Orlofsy in Fledermaus, Maddalena in Rigoletto, and Rosina in The Barber of Seville. Her rich mezzo voice is excellent for the more serious works on the recording, but Schneidermann also gives a spirited and light-hearted rendering when it is called for. One of the latter, “Ich bin a bal-agole” (I am a coachman), was written by Solomon Rosowsky (1878-1962). Son of the cantor and composer Baruch Leib Rosowsky, Solomon was a composer, musicologist, collector and editor of Jewish music, music critic, teacher, and author of The Cantillation of the Bible: The Five Books of Moses.
Interspersed between the songs are four sets of works for solo piano by Alexander Krejn, his “Jewish Dances,” op. 50, performed by Jascha Nemtsov. Born and educated in Russia, Nemtsov graduated with distinction from the Leningrad Conservatory in 1986, and six years later moved to Stuttgart, Germany, where he still lives. His sensitive playing of the solo works and the relatively simple accompaniments suits the music very well.
Like Rosovsky, Krejn (1883-1951) was born into a musical family. His father was a klezmer musician who played violin at Jewish weddings, and his six brothers all became musicians. Kreijn achieved his greatet success as a composer for the Yiddish theater in Russia during the 1920s. The Opus 50 dances are drawn from some of his theater works. After Jewish music was banned in the Soviet Union, Kreijn wrote works unrelated to his career up till then.
The best-known of the composers on this CD is Lazare Saminsky, who is represented by four works at the beginning and three at the end of the recording. Saminsky, who grew up in Russia and emigrated to New York when he was nearly 40, became music director for Temple Emanuel, which has been called the “Vatican” of the Reform Jewish movement. If anyone can be called the Grand Old Man of New Jewish Music, it is Saminsky (whose dates, 1882-1959, are erroneously given as 1959-1982!).
The first work on the recording is “Shir Hashirim,” Saminsky’s setting of the first few sentences of the Song of Songs in Hebrew. It is appropriately prayer-like, featuring simple harmonies played mostly in chords in the piano. It sticks close to the tonic, like Torah chanting, and features flourishes at ends of some of the sentences. The Hebrew pronunciation (as well as the transliteration in the booklet) are inconsistent and, in some places, simply wrong. Nevertheless, starting off the recital with a prayerful Bible passage sets a good tone for what is to come.
Of the other composers represented on this CD, the best known is Joseph Achron (1886-1943), whose “Po En-Harod” (Here is En-Harod) in Hebrew is a tribute to a kibbutz in Israel.