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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.
18 Oct 2005
XL—Œuvres pour grand chœur
The “XL” of the title of this recording is, as the program book notes, a double reference. First, read as Roman numerals, it points to the extraordinary number of voice parts in Thomas Tallis’ famous “Spem in alium” and its modern analogue here, Antony Pitts’ “XL,” a forty-voice setting of text from Psalm 40.
Second, read in merchandizing code, the “XL” also points to “extra large,” the size of the Rundfunkchor Berlin, whose sixty some voices certainly exceed Renaissance norms and also the norms of many ensembles performing modern music. Happily, I would suggest a third reference, as well, and that is that “XL” is also emblematic of the excellence of the program and much of its execution.
Conductor Simon Halsey’s theme here is a tightly constructed one: he has compellingly mated pre-modern works with contemporary compositions that in some fashion transform them, and the cumulative effect is stunning. While savoring the familiarity of long-established pillars in the repertory—the Tallis “Spem in alium,” Purcell’s “Hear My Prayer, O Lord,” the first Contrapunctus from Bach’s Art of Fugue, Bach’s chorale, “Komm, süsser Tod, and the chant “Veni, creator spiritus”—one marvels at the transformations by Dieter Schnebel, Jonathan Harvey, Knut Nystedt, Sven-David Sandström, and Antony Pitts. And the ebb and flow between old and new creates a gratifying rhythm as the program unfolds.
The transformations are of varied sorts. Schnebel, for instance, arranges the Bach Contrapunctus in a verbatim manner: all of the notes are there in their original sequence, but by dividing the notes between various vocal lines and varying the singers’ vowel configurations, he re-contextualizes the work in a way that gives it a decidedly new and spatial dimension. Harvey and Nystedt, by contrast, create soundscapes with haunting harmonies, aleatoric and undulating effects, that set the sound ashimmer and provide a decidedly new envelope in which to place the pre-existent material (“Veni, Creator” and “Komm süsser Tod”). Sandström adopts more the technique of paraphrase, developing themes and contours from Purcell’s emotionally charged orginal. And Pitts carves out a relation with “Spem in alium” in a way that evokes and salutes the original without, however, taking on elements of its specific content.
Oddly thrown into the mix, as well is Kodaly’s Laudes Organi, a large-scale work, whose connection to the programmatic theme is decidedly looser—its text is a twelfth-century hymn in praise of the organ and Guido of Arezzo. Thus, while it can claim ties to an earlier epoch, they are largely verbal, not musical. Moreover, Kodaly’s compositional language is of a decidedly conservative bent, which further separates the work from the more markedly modern idioms of the other composers.
The performances are accomplished and highly polished. The choir’s sound is reedy and sinewy in the older pieces, which serves them well, although close placement of the microphones gives a solo cast to some of the works—the Tallis in particular—that undermines what one suspects would be a satisfying ensemble cohesion heard in the hall. The newer pieces find the choir much at home, dynamically alive to the range of effects and techniques, and unflaggingly expressive in their rendition.
We have long admired the sixteenth century’s propensity and ability to adapt pre-existent material to new ends, heard in the large quantities of parody and paraphrase masses that characterize the late Renaissance. In “XL,” we see that a kindred spirit is alive in our own day, as well, with results that engage and satisfy in moving ways, indeed.