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Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

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The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

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Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

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Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

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Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,



The very best of Thomas Hampson
28 Sep 2005

The Very Best of Thomas Hampson

The Very Best of Thomas Hampson is an excellent selection on CD of Hampson’s recordings from various points in his career. The American baritone is one of the international stars of classical music for both his roles on the opera stage and his work as a recitalist.

The very best of Thomas Hampson

Thomas Hampson, baritone. With Sir Roger Norrington, Michel Plasson, Placido Domingo, Eugene Kohn, Antonio de Almeida, Roberto Alagna, Csaba Airizer, Antonio Pappano, Richard Armstrong, Sir Andrew Davis, Geoffrey Parsons, Fabio Luisi, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Wolfram Rieger, Sir Simon Rattle, Franz Welser-Möst, London Voices, Kenneth Sillito, Armen Guzelimian, Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, Michael Parloff, David Alpher.

EMI Classics 5863322 [2CDs]


His recordings with EMI include both studio recordings and live performances, and this CD represents him well through the depth and variety of repertoire it contains.

Of the two CDs in this set, the first CD is devoted primarily Italian and French composers, with the focus mainly on opera, while the second has mostly German composers, with many of the selections being Lieder. There are some exceptions on both CDs, with some songs by Rossini augmenting the Italian repertoire on the first one; similarly, some songs by American composers like Griffes and Foster round out the Lieder on the second.

Hampson’s work in opera includes a number of prominent Italian roles, like the character of Figaro in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, and his performance of “Largo al factotum” is characteristic of his clear and straightforward delivery of the text. A parallel piece not usually associated with baritones is “Von der Schönheit,” from Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, which requires a comparable approach to diction that must also preserve the musicality implicit in the title of the piece. The latter is an excerpt from the recording of the less familiar version of Das Lied that involves two male singers (tenor and baritone), which Hampson made with Peter Seiffert and conducted by Simon Rattle.

Likewise, Hampson is part of some excellent recordings of French opera, such as Gounod’s Faust, and his interpretation of Valentin’s aria “Avant de quitter des lieux” is among the finest from recent decades. His intelligent approach to French repertoire is also represented from a selection from Massenet’s Hérodiade, another fine recording, which also calls to mind his memorable performance several years ago in the new production of the same composer’s Thaïs at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In addition, Hampson has performed some of the French versions of Verdi’s operas, and he made an exceptional contribution in Don Carlos, which is represented here with two excerpts. For those not familiar with the recording, the selections should give an idea of its merits, not only for Hampson’s contribution, but the other performers, as well.

When it comes to the German repertoire, the selection from Weber’s Euryanthe represents Hampson’s fine diction and nuanced phrasing. Likewise the excerpt from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is an excellent choice, and the aria “O du mein holder Abendstern” from Wagner’s Tannhaüser conveys some of the power of Hampson’s voice. Yet the baritone’s performances of Lieder are critical for an understanding of his contribution to this repertoire. Hampson’s fine, resonant tone is well suited to Lieder, and his interpretations of Schumann are outstanding, as is shown in the selection from his recording of the Dichterliebe as well as several of Mahler’s Rückert Lieder. As a Mahler interpreter, Hampson is highly respected, and those who enjoy the music included on this CD may wish to explore the singer’s interpretations of Mahler’s settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

As difficult as it sometimes may be to find a representative sampling in any CD entitled “The Very Best,” this selection meets the challenge. Yet it would have been convenient to have the texts and translations of the works included. A discography would be of some assistance for this retrospective CD set and others like it, rather than the selective listings of recordings that were apparently made with EMI alone. These are minor quibbles, however, and should by no means suggest any reservations about this fine collection.

James L. Zychwoicz
Madison, Wisconsin

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