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.
08 Jan 2006
For a work that is known as a one-aria-opera, four official (this one included) recordings is not a bad record. And of course most opera-lovers have not only “E la solita storia” in their many tenor recitals but know the baritone aria “Come due tizzi” and the mezzo’s “Esser madre è un inferno” as well.
Still there is more to be discovered in the score like Vivetta’s aria, the fine intermezzo or the big duet between Federico and Vivetta in the second act. Cilea started his career as an opera composer with Gina as a 23-year old in 1889 and finished it 18 years later with Gloria as a 41-year old (Bongiovanni’s recordings of both operas can be warmly recommended). He lived for another 43 years without composing a major work.
Soon after the premières his operas sank into oblivion but in the twenties there was a renewed interest and his best known work Adriana Lecouvreur became a staple of the repertory in Italy. L’Arlesiana, too, once more made the rounds of the theatres. By that time, Cilea was probably too old and the onslaught of modern composing techniques was so great that he didn’t show an inclination to return to the stage. Still he started revising some of his older works; especially this Arlesiana, which only got its final version in 1937. By then the older versions were already much ingrained and the two first recordings didn’t use the definitive version.
I’ve never heard the Pederzini/Oncina/Protti recording but it seems the sound is not really state of the art. Rodolfo Celetti in his “Teatro d’opera in disco” has some good words for Pederzini and Protti but thinks the Cetra version to be superior. Of course Ferruccio Tagliavini was the reason behind this recording and he is easily the best Federico on record. Still, for those who know his hauntingly beautiful “E la solita storia” recorded in June 1940, the complete set will be a little disappointing as some of the wonderful sweetness and bloom had gone out of the voice eleven years later. We had to wait another 41 years before we got the first really complete version but Kelen/Anderson/Spacagna didn’t really give us an idiomatic version.
This latest, newest and most complete version has at least an all-Italian cast who know their trade. Lyric soprano Daria Masiero as Vivetta is a discovery: a lovely voice and a vivacious singer who clearly supersedes all her predecessors. Mezzo Elisabetta Fiorillo brings along a rich somewhat tremulous but convincing voice; and her “Esser madre” is a success with the public. Pia Tassinara in the Cetra-set (at the time Tagliavini’s wife before he threw her out and married a young lady 24 years his junior) had recently converted to mezzo-soprano. Yet she remains, however, a soprano who has lost her top; and the voice has not the fullness of Fiorillo. Stefano Antonucci in this latest version but a poor substitute for Cetra’s Paolo Silveri. The sound is indistinct and he has difficulties in his high register. Most opera lovers will have Giuseppe Taddei’s fine version of “Come due tizzi” in their memory and Antonucci is simply no match.
And then there is the fly in the ointment. A good version of L’Arlesiana falls or sinks with the tenor. Joseph Calleja is the only tenor around who could have outsung Tagliavini as he has exactly the beauty and youthfulness that is required in this role but alas he is not in the cast (and is probably already too expensive for a small theatre and recording company). Still I wonder if it wasn’t possible to find older singers like Salvatore Fisichella or younger ones like Giuseppe Filianote for the role. Of course, the tenor in this recording didn’t have to learn the part as he had already sung the role during his career. But listening to Luca Canonici, one wouldn’t presume that he made his début only 18 years before this recording. His was never a big voice and he didn’t always choose his roles wisely and this shows. The voice sounds a bit worn and dry. He never had a big spectrum of colours in his sound, as is proven by his solo CD (a reward for substituting for José Carreras in the Bohème movie) but the freshness has now gone out of the voice. His “E la solita storia” is not bad as he sings with style and sensitivity and doesn’t try to emulate Gigli’s bleaty sobbing. But after all, the role was written for young Enrico Caruso, never a tenore di grazia, and Canonici’s small voice is no match for the role. Reynaldo Giovanninetti has his forces well in hand and gives a sterling interpretation of overture and intermezzo. I hope Bongiovanni will keep up the good work and give us one day Cilea’s Tilda; his only opera that is still completely unknown.