Recently in Recordings
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.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
14 Jan 2006
SCHEIDT: Ludi musici I, II, III & IV
I suspect that when we survey the musical landscape of the early seventeenth century, it is opera, monody, and madrigal that come most quickly and lastingly into view, and given the contemporaneous attention given to the relationship between music and word, it is unsurprising that this would be the case.
However, a significant aspect of the early seventeenth century concerns the flourishing of instrumental music, much of which is vocally inspired, much of which is in continuity with sixteenth-century forms, but at the same time a repertory that is increasingly moving towards independence, sophistication, and idiomatic style.
One of the major composers of early seventeenth-century instrumental music is Samuel Scheidt, a pupil of Sweelinck, and a court musician at Halle in the service of the Margrave Christian Wilhelm of Brandenburg. Scheidt’s four volumes of Ludi musici appeared between 1621 and 1627—collections of dances, intradas, and canzonas—and it is the music of these collections that Musica Fiata, under the direction of the virtuoso cornettist, Roland Wilson, performs with stunning flair and sense of style. Bringing this music to life in this case involved more than the performing of the pieces, for a substantial portion survives only in parts; Wilson has thus had to be adept at reconstruction, and has handled that task with convincing results.
As the majority of this music has no specified instrumentation, Wilson has taken the liberty to put together the recording with an ear towards timbral variety: cornetts, trumpets, dulzians and trombones are joined by violins, viols, lutes, and organs, with diversity of configurations the order of the day. Particularly striking and memorable are the several pieces performed by four dulzians or four trombones, all in close, low-register voicings. And if the timbres are diverse, so too are the nature of the pieces themselves. Some are explicitly dolorous, some are extended variations on popular melodies, some are animated dances. To the seasoned ear, it is a satisfying program; however, the language and musical idiom at first blush may seem rather uniform, and some may find the recording more a collection to sample than a “concert program” to hear at one sitting.
In any event, the performances are stellar. All the works show a characteristic close attention to style, especially in the gracefully suave shaping of phrases and the command of fluidly “verbal” articulation. The playing is often wonderfully spirited—the opening intrada is the epitome of buoyancy—and impressively virtuosic. Never more so, perhaps, than in Scheidt’s famous “Galliard Battaglia." Here “dueling” violins and cornets display a vigor in the exchange of figuration that transforms a genre piece that sometimes lapses into predictability into a thrilling tour de force. Scheidt dedicated this piece to the court cornettist, who hopefully enjoyed the workout as much as Wilson and his colleagues seem to do!