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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.
04 Oct 2005
Konrad Jarnot is a young baritone who brings a wonderful vitality to the music he has recorded. He also has another Oehms release, a selection of Lieder by Gustav Mahler, which is engaging for the strong sense of line he brings to that repertoire, which is precisely what he brings to this collection of French vocal music.
It is ambitious for a male singer to take on Maurice Ravel’s Shéhérazade, a cycle usually performed by a female singer. In fact, a number of fine recordings by women already exist to question the need for a male version of the piece. Yet Jarnot executes the music convincingly in what is listed as the “world premiere recording” of this piece performed by a baritone. The three songs that comprise Shéhérazade, “Asie!”, “La flute enchantée,” and “L’indifférent,” are sustained pieces that require the clear presentation that Jarnot and Helmut Deutsch offer. Jarnot’s subtle execution of “Indifférent” bears attention for its extended lines and fine phrasing of the text.
The pianist Helmut Deutsch offers just the proper level of accompaniment, which supports Jarnot well with its discreet entrances and genuinely soft tone. Deutsch’s deft touch sets an appropriate tone for Ravel’s music, especially in some of the more subtle passages. When he faces more extroverted music, as in the previous song, “La flute enchantée,” Deutsch is equally convincing as he reinforces Jarnot’s careful phrasing. Yet it is the opening piece that shows the pair at their best. Jarnot’s exposed lines are full and strong, as he gives Tristan Klingsor’s texts meaningful expression. The repeated cries of “Asie!” suggest the wonder and yearning that the poet attempts to express in this celebration of all those exotic things that make up this powerful song. This is a song that requires sensitivity to work well in a recital, and even more to come off well in a recording like this. It is the remote, the other in us, that makes “Asia” so evocative and Jarnot expresses this well, not only in his inflection of the text, but his nuanced tones.
Similarly, the twelve Mélodies by Henri Duparc are the ones usually performed by a male singer, and Jarnot offers a fine interpretation of these quintessentially French songs. Baudelaire’s text for the final song, “La vie antérieure” offers a fine parallel with Ravel’s “Asie,” the song which opens this recording. In fact, some lines of Baudelaire’s poem are an apt comment on the performance:
. . . Mêlaient d’une façon solennelle et mystique
Les tout puissants accords de leur riche musique . . . .
. . . in a solemn and mystical way, mingled
the powerful chords of their rich music . . .
The performers succeed in conveying the unique sense of each of Duparc’s songs. Through the tempos he has chosen, Jarnot is able to express the text effectively, which is crucial to the settings of verse by such poets as Gautier, Baudelaire, and others. The familiar “L’invitation au voyage” is a fine collaboration between Jarnot and Deutsch, with its sinuous lines evoking the seduction described in the text. In contrast, the more emotionally direct “La vague et la cloche” is masterfully performed, with its almost raucous evocation of the waves that almost overwhelm the song’s protagonist. Between these somewhat extreme expressions of emotion, Duparc’s Mélodies involve a variety of situations that demand much from the performers. Jarnot gives these songs with insight and precision, elements that Deutsch reinforces in his meticulous accompanying. This is music for mature singers, musicians whose expressiveness goes beyond the words on the page to unearth the deeper meanings of the text and the subtleties of the musical lines.
Jarnot delivers the Duparc Mélodies consistently well, which makes this recording noteworthy for anyone interested in this music. The sound of this Oehms recording solidly conveys the nuances of expression for both the voice and piano. Unlike some other Oehms recordings, like Jarnot’s collection of Mahler’s Lieder, there is no question in this CD of French music about the placement of the microphones, which seem too close in that earlier recording. In the present one, the ambiance is appropriate to the music and performers.
As to the CD itself, the booklet includes the original texts for all the pieces on it, along with translations in German and English. With such relatively unfamiliar music, having the texts available is preferable to having listeners find them on their own. Oehms may want to provide consistently texts for fine recordings of vocal music, like this one. Overall, this is an impressive recording that bodes well for future recordings by this promising baritone.
James L. Zychowicz