Recently in Recordings
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
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.
24 Oct 2005
DVOŘÁK: Tone Poems
In a richly Bohemian folk-style, the Czech poet Karel Jaromír Erben produced a collection of enchanted poetry that inspired Antonín Dvořák to compose his expressive array of hauntingly dark tone poems. Ultimately, the main character of each poem suffers a tragic consequence for their transgressions, ranging from the thoughtless utterances of a frustrated mother, to disobeying a parent, to murder.
Perhaps it takes a deep-rooted understanding of Bohemian culture to understand why Dvořák would choose such grim fairy tales of death and misery as his theme for a form of composition quite new to the otherwise prolific composer. Quite possibly, it is the somber mood emanating from these poems that make them so ideal for musical expression. Whatever the reason, Dvořák waited until the end of his career to explore a musical form that by definition, transforms composer into story teller.
Simon Rattle’s lyrical qualities are ideally suited for leading a performance that paints pictures of innocence, love, greed, corruption, and grief. In this Berlin Philharmonic production, the different sections of the orchestra took advantage of the opportunity to showcase their mastery of musical phrasing essential to program music. Certainly, the long legato lines were executed with careful attention to phrasing, and with an impressive sweetness to the sound. The only quality that could arguably be said to be lacking in this performance is the roughness and/or ugliness of sound during particular moments that depict horror. However, it is just as valid to say that any exaggeration in the performance would detract from the storyline.
The first of these poems, “The Golden Spinning-Wheel,” warns audiences of the terrible consequences brought by deception and greed. In this particular “wicked step-sister” tale, a king falls in love with a beautiful girl whom he intends to marry. Out of greed and jealousy, the girl’s step-sister and step-mother kill the girl and attempt to disguise the step-sister as the girl – the disillusioned king marries the step-sister. Fortunately, the girl is revived by a mysterious man who finds her body. When the deception is revealed to the king, he has the step-sister and her mother thrown to the wolves for their treachery. Dvořák composed music to express this poem phrase by phrase, and Rattle impressively paces the orchestra so that the music comes through like a poetry reading. A notable feature worth mentioning is the solo violin playing the role of the beautiful girl, the king’s love interest. The Concertmaster delivers a stunning performance using an expressive and varied vibrato. The orchestra contrasts this beauty through disturbingly mysterious passages in the cellos and basses.
Continuing with the theme of malice, “The Wood Dove” describes the guilt-ridden conscience of a young woman who murdered her husband so she would be free to marry her true love. Eventually, her guilt denies her any happiness in her new marriage and she is drawn to suicide. Beginning with a funeral march, this poem seems less structured than the first with an almost “stream of consciousness” quality. Rather than remaining completely faithful to the text, it seems Dvořák chose to convey the emotions, guilt, and conflict of the tormented widow. The horns and bassoons, and later the cellos and basses, commendably communicated the underlying “guilt” theme that seemed inescapable.
The “Noonday Witch” retells the story of a frustrated mother who threatens her restless child with the wrath of the Noonday Witch. As the mother verbalizes the threat, the noonday witch appears, delivering a lethal blow to the poor child. Filled with regret, the mother loses consciousness after the ordeal, only to be revived by her husband, who at the realization of the tragedy expresses his own anguish. A dramatic transformation can be heard from the initial themes of a playful child and stern mother, to the ugly and horrid themes of the merciless Witch, to the heart-wrenching grief of the mourning parents depicted by a fortissimo roar from the orchestra.
In “The Water Goblin,” a young girl takes a stroll by a stream against her mother’s advice. As she nears the stream, the Water-Goblin, ruler of an underwater world, abducts the girl and forces her to marry him and together they produce a child. After time passes and the girl shares her longing to be with her mother, the Water-Goblin allows her to visit her home on the surface as long as she promised to return. To insure that she would return, the Water-Goblin insists that the child remain with him. When the girl is reunited with her mother, the mother locks her in the house so that she does not return to the stream. Angry at the girl’s betrayal, the Water-Goblin murders his own child and throws the body to the surface to punish the girl. The motives expressing the Water-Goblins rage are undeniable and forcibly interjected in otherwise serene passages.
Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic honored Erben and Dvořák by remaining true to the stories so that the poet and composer’s intentions were realized. Having become familiar with the poems prior to listening, it was quite easy to form a mental story board filled with the images described musically by such a commanding orchestra and conductor.
University of Tennessee