Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
19 Nov 2005
A happy feature of the King CD is the booklet in German and English: at least 7 pages full of information on the tenor. Then there is the pristine sound of the recordings. Though there is no mention of a concert source I’m fairly sure all the pieces (always followed by generous applause), are derived from the famous Münchner Sonntag Konzerte.
During the sixties and seventies they were regularly broadcasted and duly taped by German collectors who send them to their foreign correspondents. The concerts were proof of the German ‘Wirtschafswunder’ (Economic miracle) when money started to flow once more and they were generous indeed. Some of them found their way unto CD like the Olivero-Labo evening and the Bergonzi-Kabaivanska-Cappuccilli gala. James King was a regular who participated for many years.
The recordings on this CD were broadcast between 1968 and 1979 and are therefore testimony to the tenor’s stamina and vocal longevity; but they also show the slow deterioration of the voice. As is normal, the 1968-1970 recordings (Lohengrin, Parsifal, Frau) are the best. The raw power of the voice is there and tells us why people were stunned when he made his Met début in 1966 and his first “Gott” shook the walls. There was never great love between him and the Met (he was rejected five times during auditions) and after some good initial seasons he would only return in the eighties. King was a real heroic tenor in the old-fashioned way Melchior so much liked: he started as a baritone before becoming a heldentenor. He shows off a good stylish big voice majestically rolling along with a good free top. There is bronze in the sound and his legato is exemplary in the difficult Frau aria. A real beautiful pianissimo he hasn’t which is obvious in his Lohengrin aria where it’s remarkable how he has copied his interpretation from Konya’s classic performance (No coincidence. His career took off while substituting time and again for the Hungarian tenor). The difference with the 1977 and 1979-pieces however is striking. By that time the 54 year old tenor still had an awful amount of voice left, though there were now some chinks in his vocal harness. In the Fidelio aria the top sounds more constricted and he uses a lot of glottal attacks. He also cuts some corners by eschewing consonants. The Prize Song which was never meant to be sung by a baritonal tenor lies clearly somewhat too high. One hears him using great gulps of air and pushing the voice. The four big Otello pieces are sung well; indeed very well for a man his age but he cannot compete with another Konzert given ten years earlier (which appeared on Bella Voce 107.107) where he sings exactly the same Otello extracts with fresher tone and a more free top. Anyway this is a worthy testimony of the now 80-year old tenor who was much underrated during his best days. Time too to celebrate him by publishing his lieder- and especially his operetta-recital.
There is a marked difference with the Botha recital. The South-African tenor is not a Heldentenor but a big lirico; maybe a shade too light for Die Walküre (though Georges Thill is one of the best and most musical Siegmunds on record). I fear the recording doesn’t help either. I’ve heard Botha in the flesh and he sings broader and more voluminous in reality than in this piece where the voice sounds a bit too slender, without heft. In all the other arias and duets he is splendid, using his means for the best. He has made formidable progress since his first recordings 10 years ago. His Wagner singing is much helped by the many hours of work he put into his Italian roles. I heard him sing an exquisite messa di voce in Celeste Aida (he had worked on it for years, he told me) and this pays off. Take his Am stillen Herd: very sensitive singing and no barking. Both the Meistersinger Prize Song and the Lohengrin narrative start with a soft lovely tone spinning out the music in a very poetic manner. The way he caresses “eine Taube” equals Konya’s classic recording. Botha even adds the coda to the aria, cut by Wagner though reinstated on the Konya-Amara-recording. Here too it only proves that Wagner knew this was worthless and I’d much have preferred Botha recording “Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater”. So what is the catch? Well there is one and it’s something Botha cannot do much about. The basic material of the voice is not very rich, not very distinguished, not very personal. In the house this may pass but on record one is too much aware of his lack of outstanding God-given means. Nevertheless I and a lot of other people would be mighty happy to have him in a house-performance of one of the more lyrical Wagner parts as he has so improved musically. Compared with his Italian recital of four years ago (on Arte Nova, which he financed half himself he said) he has once more markedly refined his art and there are few tenors who can boast about such a feat once they have scored their first big successes. Botha is ably partnered by his sopranos and the orchestra, though I don’t like Simone Young sometimes stopping for a second to make a musical point.