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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.
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.
29 Jan 2006
DEBUSSY: La Mer
Inspired by the elitist poets of late nineteenth century Paris, Debussy was eager to join their ranks by developing musical ideas that evoked the same emotional response as the poetry he admired. Originally, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune was a collaborative project between Debussy and Stéphane Mallarmé, a poet highly regarded by the composer.
The joint work was to be premiered in Paris in February 1891; however, for unknown reasons, the performance was cancelled.1 The result was two separate works with the same title, each expressing the same imagery without the limitations and constraints of the other medium. That is, the music was somehow liberated from the text and vice versa. However, the separation of the music from the text was not absolute. In fact, the use of the flute to represent the faun comes directly from the line in Mallarmé’s poem, “a single line of sound, aloof, disinterested.”2 In this recording, flutist Emmanuel Pahud depicts Debussy’s faun with lyrical gentility for a delightful effect. The balance of the winds and brass is quite impressive, demonstrating Simon Rattle’s delicate and thoughtful interpretation of this musical poem that is most accurately characterized by its tender moments.
Debussy’s La mer expresses the composer’s romantic fascination with the ocean. In a letter Debussy wrote to his friend, André Messager, Debussy confessed his childhood dreams of becoming a sailor and his utter adoration of the sea. When studying the score, it is evident that Debussy eagerly wanted to capture the organic and rhythmical flow of the ocean in his music. For this reason, Debussy went through the painstaking effort of providing precise instructions for tempo modifications throughout the work. For example, Debussy would instruct performers to ritard for four measures and/or very gradually accelerando in sections that did not necessarily constitute a phrase, but rather a wave-like contour. If well-executed, the resulting performance should closely mimic the flow of oceans waves. Simon Rattle deserves a standing ovation for this brilliant performance that pays the utmost respect to the composer and demonstrates an intimate understanding of nature.
Among the most difficult feats to accomplish in La mer are the long legato lines that must blend in with their surroundings. In other words, given that the ocean never starts or stops abruptly, neither can the music. Certainly, this recording demonstrates the orchestra’s unquestioned ability to sustain a musical idea for an inordinate amount of time. In one particular section, the cellos take over the melody in a four-part divisi to form a rich texture of fleeting motivic passages. The seamlessness from one motif to another further emphasizes the remarkable ability of the players to follow the natural current of this musical odyssey.
In contrast to the fluid presentation of La mer, Debussy’s La Boîte à joujoux can be described by its sudden changes in character, as well as by the juxtaposition of a number of musical fragments and gestures. Rather than depicting nature, La Boîte à joujoux has a more rambunctious story to tell, inspired by his own daughter’s playful antics. The role of the piano is essential to establishing a youthful element in this work, particularly in the mischievous “1er Tableau: Le Magasin de jouets.” Pianist Majella Stockhausen-Riegelbauer delivers an enjoyably capricious performance that simply radiates with liveliness - the orchestra certainly echoes her spirit. The best way to describe this piece, particularly in this performance, is simply to say that it is “fun and carefree.” The placing of this piece immediately after La mer was also a commendable decision since it showcases Debussy’s and the orchestra’s diverse talents.
The final work of the recording is an orchestration by Colin Matthews of three of Debussy’s Preludes. There are many examples of famous orchestrations of piano works, most notably, Ravel’s orchestration of Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Quite often, the orchestral version is preferred by audiences for its grandiose presentation. However, there are many works that do not naturally lend themselves to orchestration. When listening to recordings of the preludes performed on piano, it is difficult to imagine an orchestral manifestation of such pianistic pieces. The result of Colin Matthew’s treatment of Debussy’s Preludes is a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
The orchestration of the three preludes is quite remarkable, generating some powerful moments through a seemingly perfect choice of instruments. Still, it is worth mentioning that it was sometimes difficult to recognize the original work for piano. Somehow, the relationship between the orchestration and the preludes for solo piano is obscured by the dramatic elements from a wide-range of timbres. In many ways, it is easier to hear the voice of the orchestrator in these pieces than that of Debussy. While still captivating, perhaps even more so in this dramatic setting, the images conveyed are unlike those of the original work. After attempts to compare the two works, the inescapable conclusion is that there is no comparison. Each version is simply a pleasure to listen to in its own way.
University of Tennessee
1 Barbara L. Kelly, “Debussy’s Parisian Affiliations,” in The Cambridge Companion to Debussy, ed. Simon Trezise (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 33-4.
2 Ibid., 34.