Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

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,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Ernst Krenek: Lieder
19 Nov 2005

KRENEK: Lieder

While I was listening to this recording of Krenek’s song cycles Durch die Nacht (op. 67) and Gesänge des späten Jahres (op. 71), I started to think about art and memory.

Ernst Krenek: Lieder

Liat Himmelheber (mezzo soprano), Hanna Dóra Sturludóttir (soprano), Axel Bauni (piano), Isabel Fernholz (piano)

Orfeo C 123 041 A [CD]

 

When you listen to a piece, or watch a movie, or go to a play or opera, shouldn’t you think about it afterward, if it’s to have some significance for you? For instance, the other night I watched the movie Stage Beauty, about an actor who played women’s roles right during the English Restoration when all of a sudden Charles II decreed that women could perform on stage. No more work for him. In spite of a rather formulaic plot, lots of interesting dialogue was bantered around about “the artist” and gender roles. I’ve been thinking about the film since, and repeating some of the bon mots (“Whenever we’re about to do something truly horrible, we say that the French have been doing it for a long time”). Memory and repetition.

Now, if a piece of music can be said to make an impact on you, beyond just thinking about it, shouldn’t you also be humming snatches? Or at least approximating a “la la la” when you’re telling a neighbor why you liked it? For millennia music was passed along orally. Homer’s tales went from storyteller to storyteller. Plays were passed from actor to actor. If people couldn’t tell their neighbor a couple of the best lines in something they’d just heard or seen, then the Joneses surely must have wondered if it was really all that hot. Memory and repetition.

Twentieth-century classical vocal music, on the other hand, doesn’t tend to be very hummable. Not like something by Rodgers or Kern or Berlin or Sondheim (well, generally hummable). How many college freshmen run in and tell their roommate, “I just heard this great piece! Pierrot lunaire!” “Can you hum a few bars?” It may make an impact, but if we can’t reproduce any of it, how significant is it to us? We can’t all sing “Di quella pira,” but most of us can la la la la-la-la-la-la the opening line. Do we have to be able to hum a few bars for a piece to be significant? Perhaps this decline and fall of hummability is one reason for the current abyss between the public and classical music. Memory but not repetition.

Ravel is hummable. And Poulenc. Is hummability in modern music one of those truly horrible characteristics of French composers? Britten is hummable only some of the time: “O beauty, o handsomeness, goodness ...” Still thinking about the gender roles, apparently. Berg: we don’t usually think of him as a hummable composer, but his early setting of “Schliesse mir die Augen beide” sticks in my resonators for some reason. Othmar Schoeck, the very under-appreciated Swiss composer of many beautiful songs: I can hum almost all of his Hesse setting “Im Nebel.” Maybe because the words mean something to me, in addition to my liking their musical setting. There’s another setting of the same poem by the Austrian Gottfried von Einem, but I can’t hum that one; it’s tonal, but it just isn’t as significant to me.

So now to Krenek. I can hum one snippet of Krenek, from his jazz opera Jonny spielt auf. But Krenek moved on from his jazz style to a more expressionist style, heard in the two cycles in this recording, to serialism, then to an individualistic post-serialist style. Passages of these songs are very Romantic, in the style of, say, Berg, but Krenek puts his study of Schoenberg to good use; the vocal lines tend to be angular, and triads are the new dissonances.

The other issue with these songs, and with all songs, is the text. The first set are based on poems by Karl Kraus, the voice of early-twentieth-century Vienna through his editorship of the journal Die Fackel. Kraus was very influential on other literary and artistic types at the time and for a decade or two following, but he seems awfully dated nowadays, more so than Wilhelm Mueller’s poems when we hear them sung to Schubert’s music. Krenek wrote his own poems for the second set: “the artist” again, the dark night of the soul, etc., etc. I’m not going to argue that it helps in remembering and repeating a song if it’s happy (“Im Nebel” gives the lie to that argument), but, God, so many twentieth-century songs are so dreary! Lorenz Hart may have been a cynic, but then we are “Bewitched.” And it’s always a danger when a composer thinks he or she should write both words and music (Richard Rodgers didn’t have much luck with this). It encourages them to say in 45 minutes what they should have said in 15.

So, taking this admonition about prolixity to heart, I will urge devotees of the twentieth-century lied to add this disc to their collections, even though you probably won’t be able to hum the best bits later. If you know Krenek’s operas of the twenties, these songs show how he made his way to his later important works like the opera Karl V, the ravishing choral work Lamentation Jeremiae Prophetae, or the later piano sonatas, championed by Glenn Gould. The performances are first rate by all concerned; soprano Hanna Dóra Sturludóttir brings a particularly beautiful voice to the first set of songs. I may not be able to hum my favorite passage, but I certainly would be inclined to listen to her performance again. Maybe in this post-oral-transmission age, that’s the best we can hope for nowadays from memory and repetition.

David E. Anderson

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):