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

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.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Giulini Conducts Mozart and Mahler
21 Dec 2005

Giulini Conducts Mozart and Mahler

With the passing of Carl Maria Giulini (1913-2005) in June 2005, the music world lost one of its finest conductors. Among his legacy are some critical recordings, which represent the literature that Giulini chose to preserve.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor KV 550; Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Brigitte Fassbaender, mezzo; Francisco Araiza, tenor; Wiener Philharmoniker; Carlo Maria Giulini (cond.).
Live recording: Großes Festspielhaus, August 2, 1987

Orfeo d'Or 654052 [CD]

 

Among those recordings is the release in February 2005 of a concert Giulini led on 2 August 1987 at the Salzburg Festspiel. According to the notes that accompany this CD, it is the last recording the conductor approved for release.

Because of its length performances of Mahler’s song cycle Das Lied von der Erde sometimes preclude the inclusion of other works with it either in concert or on recordings, and the pairing with Mozart’s Symphony no. 40 in G minor reflects the programming used in Salzburg. Yet it is what Giulini chose for the particular concert, a rare opportunity for the conductor to lead the Vienna Philharmonic. As a highly esteemed interpreter of both Mozart and Mahler, Giulini offers strong performances of the two works. At a time when Mozart’s works were being performed with a bow to historic practice, Giulini chose to use a fuller orchestra than other conductors might employ. This reflects tacitly the tradition in which Giulini worked, where an earlier composer like Mozart did not have to be rediscovered through reviving older performing traditions. Rather, Giulini had been performing Mozart’s work throughout his career, having played under such conductors as Toscanini. Mozart’s music was part of the living tradition of the day.

In approaching a familiar work by Mozart with a relatively large orchestra, Giulini used relatively slower tempos, particularly in the outer movements. Yet tempo is only one dimension of this music. The clarity of line that emerges in the first movement is characteristic of this particular recording. Giulini achieves this quality not only with a modest pacing, but he allows lines to end, with points of silence that help to delineate the phrasing. He allows the slow movement (Andante) to linger and in doing so brings out some of the ensemble passages that the Vienna Philharmonic executes well. With the third movement, Giulini’s pacing contributes an almost solemn character to the stylized minuet. Within the string textures that Giulini uses well in this performance, the winds are notable for the careful and delicate timbres they create. Details like these emerge in the final movement (Allegro assai), which is taken at a modest pace. Inflections of modality are clearly apparent in this recording, in which Giulini brings out sonorities that may be passed over when the movement is taken at faster tempos than those found in this dignified performance.

In interpreting Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, Giulini’s tempos are similarly conservative in an evidently thoughtfully conceived interpretation of this monumental work. His soloists were the mezzo soprano Brigitte Fassbaender and the tenor Francisco Araiza, two fine singers who bring wonderful technique and facility to this demanding work. Both Fassbaender and Araiza offer compelling performances that complement Giulini’s leadership.

Araiza offers some fine performances of the three pieces for tenor and orchestra. As demanding as each can be, his makes maintains a fluid tone that conveys a sense of ease and comfort with the music. He delivers well the sustained opening piece “Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde” is engaging in the third song, “Von der Jugend.” With “Der Trunkene im Frühling” Araiza maintains the level of intensity that he used to excellent effect in first song, always evoking a fresh and ringing tone.

Fassbaender was at the height of her career for this performance, with a wonderful control of the various nuances required for expressing this piece effectively. With “Der Einsame im Herbst,” Fassbaender brings approaches the piece with a subtlety that brings out the details that are essential to the text. Her voice moves well within the orchestral accompaniment, which is Giulini has shaped well. Fassbaender maintains the intensity of this piece well, and the silence at its end is tribute to her command of the audience. With “Von der Schönheit,” Fassbaender colors her voice well, and Giulini’s pacing allows details to emerge comfortably. Some problems arise in the orchestra, though, when the tempo increases, and while the performers recover, it mars the result. Nevertheless Fassbaender never seems to lose her vocal composure in bringing the song to its conclusion.

“Der Abschied” is one of Mahler’s most demanding pieces, and this is a fine rendering of the music. The opening chimes resonate deeply to suggest to a break between the world of the first five songs and their counterpart in this single extended movement for voice and orchestra. The spacious tempos that Giulini chose for this performance create some extraordinarily moving passages that other conductors do not always achieve. From the start, Fassbaender is in good form as she shapes the vocal line with Giulini working well with her. The orchestral interlude before the second part, just prior to the passage “Ich stieg vom Pferd” is particularly effective, and from that point, the conductor and soloist never seem to relent in their intensity as they bring the music to its inevitably ambiguous conclusion. Fassbaender’s nuanced sound lingers on the repeated “ewig” at the end of “Der Abschied” and blends into the somewhat extended silence before the enthusiastic applause with which the recording ends.

All in all, the sound on this release is not as vibrant as can occur with studio recordings, and is reminiscent of some fine radio broadcasts. In addition to applause at the end of Mozart’s Symphony in G minor, some audience sounds occur at various points, although they are not entirely distracting. The voices benefit from the microphone placement, and while the orchestral sound is never blurred, at times the balance is off. As to the release itself, it is a rare live concert conducted by Giulini late in his career, and his masterful approach to both the Mozart Symphony and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde is laudable. Yet the existence of some gaffs in the orchestra show what can happen in live performances, even with such exceptional performers. Nevertheless, it is a fine souvenir of Giulini at the Salzburg Festspiel that captures both Fassbaender and Araiza at a fine time in their careers. While Das Lied von der Erde lends itself well to studio recordings, this is a memorable live performance.

James L. Zychowicz
Madison, Wisconsin

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):