Recently in Recordings
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
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.
11 Dec 2005
The Art of Gérard Souzay
If anyone had played the soundtrack of those first numbers of the 1955 telecast, I would have looked up in surprise at first and would have wondered if an electronic wizard had cleaned up the acoustic recordings of that giant of French singing: Jean-Emile Vanni-Marcoux.
This was that kind of singing at its very best: each syllable and of course each word perfectly enunciated while not once chopping up the line and keeping perfect legato; a noble and warm timbre with a fresh, round and very attractive small vibrato. Then doubt would have set in as the voice was somewhat higher-lying with an even more homogenous sound than Vanni-Marcoux had. In short this was Gérard Souzay at the height of his powers; a legendary baritone whom nobody French nowadays even approaches. Maybe José van Dam during the seventies, early eighties came somewhat near though the very impressive voice of the Walloon never had that utter beauty. And Souzay didn’t solely rely on his sound but employed it to tell a story with all its shades and corners in the two mélodies and the one opera aria that was broadcast in 1955. The kinescope picture is black and white and clear but with this kind of singing one would have even accepted murkiness.
Eleven years later Souzay once more appeared on Québec Television with a far longer programme. Though still in black and white television had taken some strides and such a thing as a simple registration from a lieder and melodies-recital wasn’t good enough anymore: imagine that some viewers “watching the show” would be bored so a director made it somewhat jollier. Thus Souzay recorded several opera arias and then acted them on camera in costume and with the aid of a few sets while his dubbed sound ran on. And those scenes were inserted between a recital of well-known mélodies so that a little action was served. At the end of the recital the director even had some more clever ideas. A traditional song was illustrated with arty photographs that had no whatsoever relationship with the text of the song Souzay sang. To my delight I even saw a picture of a boy reading “L’Etoile Mystérieuse”, an adventure of comic hero Tintin produced during the war, all anti-Semitic illustrations carefully deleted in the album the boy had in his hands. Meanwhile Souzay was enumerating all kinds of birds in May. And why the great singer consented to have his voice used as an echo during the famous “Baïlero” is anyone’s guess.
Anyway one can grumble as much as one wants but it’s not as if VAI had a choice and one can only be grateful for this issue which may well be commercially less rewarding than another tenor disc.
In the second part of the DVD the singer was eleven years older and was now slowly on the way back. The voice is still beautiful but the 48 year old baritone had been on the scene for more than 20 years and some of the velvet had gone. The top still rings free and clear but in the lower register there is some huskiness. The timbre is less warm because the vibrato has somewhat gone out of the voice. These beautiful overtones, typically for the sheen on all youthful voices, have now gone. The pianissimo is still beautiful but the honeyed sound is less remarkable. This is still a magnificent voice and what artistry but he cannot completely compete with his unique younger self. Of course he has lost nothing from his interpretative powers. His diction remains impeccable and one listens in awe to the opera arias where there are far more competitors. Such beautiful French and such fine legato and one doesn’t think for one second of French as a nasal and difficult language; a complaint one always get from less talented singers. His German is fine too and for this reviewer he is even helped by the fact he is not a native speaker so that he doesn’t fall in the trap of Dieskau- or Schwarzkopf-mannerisms. It is good to see his legendary accompanist Dalton Baldwin too, who, as always, makes a perfect team with the baritone. In short, this DVD is a must.