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.
04 Jan 2006
Régine Crespin: Wagner and Berlioz Opera Arias
For those who want to possess every single TV appearance of Régine Crespin, this issue will not suffice. Only four items of the EMI DVD devoted to the soprano are to be found on the short DVD that is included with this CD.
But for a lot of others, twenty minutes of Crespin singing on TV will probably satisfy their curiosity and they will be quite happy with this nice Bonus, which is in reality mostly devoted to publicity for all the classic EMI-DVD’s at the moment. So, if you want to have a look at Menuhin, Oistrakh, Richter, Rubinstein playing their instruments for a few minutes, you won’t be disappointed before you once more return to those gent’s CD’s where the sound is much better. And if you are only interested in Callas singing “Vissi d’arte” in London 1964, this too is an interesting extra as EMI gives you the whole aria as a teaser for the purchase of the DVD.
There is something nostalgic in the televised Crespin performances. The pianist has still to turn the pages of the score himself, though most of the time the camera fully concentrates on the soprano, either in close-up or panning. The director evidently still thought that the soprano was the “raison d’être” of the programme and didn’t think it necessary to illustrate her singing by inserting all kinds of unnecessary pictures. In 1964 Crespin was at the height of her powers and the ease of her singing is remarkable — no deep breathing but fully relaxed singing. The sound, too, has one sitting up. There is one mike and there were probably no engineers all over the place to produce a sterile but beautiful sound. Crespin literally blazes away everything in front of her and this DVD probably gives a better impression of the formidably sized voice than most of her commercial recordings and this not even in operatic arias.
But of course the main course is the CD with Wesendonck-lieder, some Wagner arias (which already appeared on an earlier CD together with some Verdi-arias) and Berlioz arias. What is there left to be said that has not been said of the soprano’s recordings? Little, very little, unless it is with some regret one notes that her world career as a soprano was rather short. This was not her own fault. When she made her début in 1950, France was still embarrassingly rich in opera theatres (it still is) and most good French singers could make a big career in their own country, singing in their own language with only a venture to the French speaking parts of Switzerland and Belgium. They were well paid and the French railway system allowed them to return home regularly so that they didn’t have to absent themselves for months in South America or the US. France, too, had its own record companies, sometimes very independent subsidiaries of the international majors and a lot of singers recorded prolifically, Crespin included. I take offence to the cliché in the booklet stating that in those days French singing was generally perceived to be in decline. Boué, Robin, Montmart, Juyol, Le Bris, Doria, Sarroca, Cumia, Micheau and Jaumillot each could have had a world career. And with Blanc, Massard, Bianco, Bacquier, Cambon, Borthayre, Legros, France was as rich in baritones as Italy. What other country ever yielded a tenor crop as the Cannes singing contest of 1954 that gave us Tony Poncet, Roger Gardes, Guy Chauvet, Gustave Botiaux and Alain Vanzo?
Crespin came to the world’s attention in 1958 with a Bayreuth Kundry at the time when that festival still had some influence. She went on to Vienna and Milan and arrived at the Met in 1962, one year after she had recorded the Wesendonck-lieder which are to be found on this CD. She first proves how idiomatic her German is long before Pollet and Dessay would show that the language is no stumbling block for French sopranos. But there is far more than the perfect pronunciation. The voice is fresh, warm, all-enveloping and breathtakingly beautiful that brings with it ten years experience of legato in French and Italian roles. Her female warmth in Lohengrin and Walküre makes these recordings some of the best Wagner singing ever. In 1958 she had recorded the two soprano arias from Tannhäuser as well, plus the Marguerite aria from La Damnation, which she could easily sing as she always had the low notes and probably realized that her voice was rather a short one. Although the 1970 Decca recording of the same Berlioz aria is not too despised, the younger version wins hands out. The Didon arias from Les Troyens are often sung by either a dramatic soprano or a mezzo and they suit Crespin’s voice extremely well. It is interesting to note that by 1965, when these last arias were recorded, there still was not a vocal problem in sight and the voice sounded as beautiful as seven years earlier. The problems would only start two years later with a combination of personal problems and the ill fated venture as Karajan’s Brünnhilde in Salzburg. But for lovers of a velvety rich voice this is an issue to treasure.