Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

A Baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi

A baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi, this year’s offering in their acclaimed Christmas series. Great value for money - four CDs of music so good that it shouldn’t be saved just for Christmas. The prize here, though is the Pastorale de Noël by Marc-Antoine Charpentier with Ensemble Correspondances, with Sébastien Daucé, highly acclaimed on its first release just a few years ago.

Christmas at St George’s Windsor

Christmas at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with the Choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, James Vivian, organist and conductor. New from Hyperion, this continues their series of previous recordings with this Choir. The College of St George, founded in 1348, is unusual in that it is a Royal Peculiar, a parish under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch, rather than the diocese.

From Darkness into Light: Antoine Brumel’s Complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday

As a musicologist, particularly when working in the field of historical documents, one is always hoping to discover that unknown score, letter, household account book - even a shopping list or scribbled memo - which will reveal much about the composition, performance or context of a musical work which might otherwise remain embedded within or behind the inscrutable walls of the past.

Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams

New from Albion, Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams, with Mary Bevan, Roderick Williams, William Vann and Jack Liebeck, highlighting the close personal relationship between the two composers.

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Vaughan Williams: The Song of Love

From Albion, The Song of Love featuring songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, with Kitty Whately, Roderick Williams and pianist William Vann. Albion is unique, treasured by Vaughan Williams devotees for rarely heard repertoire from the composer’s vast output, so don’t expect mass market commercial product. Albion recordings often highlight new perspectives.

A new recording of Henze’s Das Floß der Medusa

Henze’s Das Floß der Medusa is in some ways a work with a troubled and turbulent history. It is defined by the time in which it was written – 1968 – a period of student protest throughout central Europe. Its first performance was abandoned because the Hamburg chorus refused to perform under the Red Flag which had been placed on stage; and Henze himself decided he wouldn’t conduct it at all after police stormed the concert hall to remove protesters, among them the librettist Ernst Schnabel.

Berthold Goldschmidt: Beatrice Cenci, Bregenzer Festspiele

Berthold Goldschmidt’s Beatrice Cenci at last on DVD, from the Bregenzer Festspiele in 2018, with Johannes Debus conducting the Wiener Symphoniker, directed by Johannes Erath, and sung in German translation.

Sandrine Piau: Si j’ai aimé

Sandrine Piau and Le Concert de la Loge (Julien Chauvin), Si j’ai aimé, an eclectic collection of mélodies demonstrating the riches of French orchestral song. Berlioz, Duparc and Massenet are included, but also Saint-Saëns, Charles Bordes, Gabriel Pierné, Théodore Dubois, Louis Vierne and Benjamin Godard.

The VOCES8 Foundation is launched at St Anne & St Agnes

Where might you hear medieval monophony by the late 12th-century French composer Pérotin, Renaissance polyphony by William Byrd, a vocal arrangement of the stirring theme from Sibelius’s tone poem Finlandia, alongside a newly commissioned work, ‘Vertue’ (2019) by Jonathan Dove, followed by an arrangement of the Irish folksong ‘Danny Boy’ and a snappy rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘One Note Samba’ arr. for eight voices by Naomi Crellin, all within 90 minutes?

Gerald Finzi Choral Works

From Hyperion, Gerald Finzi choral works with the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Layton. An impressive Magnificat (1952) sets the tone.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz
02 Jan 2006

WEBER: Der Freischütz

This 1959 recording is one where the whole is bigger and better than the separate parts. It is the German equivalent to the Cetra recordings of the fifties. Those were maybe not the greatest recording of an opera but one felt that everybody was steeped in the Italian tradition. The same is happening here.

Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz

Eberhard Waechter; Albrecht Peter; Irmgard Seefried; Rita Streich; Kurt Böhme; Richard Holm; Walter Kreppel. Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of Bavarian Radio, Eugen Jochum (cond.).

Deutsche Grammophon 477 561-1 [2CD’s]

 

This was the last recording of the work with an all German-speaking cast before Swedish, American, Mexican, Finnish tenors and sopranos of international standing took over some of those roles as they were thought to be better sellers (granted, Carlos Kleiber once more had an all German male cast in 1973 but he had the horrible idea to ask theatre actors for the speaking parts).

Not all of these singers were still at the top of their career or even excellently suited to their roles, but all of them had known the opera all their lives, even before they started an opera career and this shows in the flow of the recording, the pacing and the ease in the dialogues. Der Freischütz with its rather naïve story was immensely popular in the broad sense of the word (“volkstümlich the Germans say) and up till the sixties there would have been no German, Austrian or Swiss who didn’t know the hunter’s chorus while most Germans thought the bridesmaids chorus to be a folk tune. Though the recording firms still kept up the pace, performances of Weber’s masterpiece slowly declined in Germany but it would never leave the repertoire as did most of Albert Lorzing’s fine Spielopern.

The recording has some strong points. First, there is the warm sound so typically for DG at the time. How we detested those magnificent stereo Decca recordings of Bohème (Bergonzi, Tebaldi), Lucia (Sutherland, Cioni) etc. because most people got a kind of hollow sound which improved definitely when one turned the volume a few notches up. But when one lived between paper thin walled houses or small apartments one could only try this for a few minutes before an angry knock asked you to calm down and as people still had some politeness and consideration for each other in those days….The DG recordings didn’t neglect the orchestra, but they placed the singers a bit more to the front; they didn’t have Culshaw extravaganzas and were far more easier to listen to in cramped surroundings.

I have fond memories of Eugen Jochum conducting a top notch orchestra (which was Celibidache’s after all). Apart from the Berliner in those days most German top orchestras belonged to a big public radio network as these organisations offered year long contracts in contrast to the opera houses and thus recruited the best players. On rehearing I was surprised at the very slow start of the overture and feared for a moment that my memories had played me false and that Jochum was suffering from a bad case of Furtwänglerism. But soon the conductor speeds things up and succeeds in building the tension that results in a chilling Wolfsschluchtscene. The best vocal performance comes from Rita Streich who would sadly die in 1987, only 56 years of age. She was one of that remarkable trio of light sopranos (the other two being Erika Köth and Anneliese Rothenberger), all born between 1920 and 1925, who still sang a lot of French and Italian roles in German with a fine legato, good top notes and easily distinguishable voices. Streich is sure and light-footed in her solos and has no difficulty at all of being heard in the ensembles though her voice was small. But she brings with her the joy and frivolity and the rock-sure vocal technique needed for someone who recorded a lot of waltzes and operetta though she was foremost an opera and lieder singer.

Next to her Irmgard Seefried is not on the same level. The soprano had a very beautiful voice in her youth and she was a far more popular figure at Salzburg than Schwarzkopf as she unstintingly gave of her best. But she paid a price for her lack of formal training. She was only 20 and still studying when she accepted an offer from the Generalmusikdirektor of Aachen’s small opera, Karajan. As the war was on maybe she was glad to earn a few Reichsmark. By the mid-sixties, only 45, she was spent and she cut short her operatic career and concentrated for many years on lieder before dying at 69. When she made this recording there are already hints of trouble. The warm personal middle voice is still there but the sound becomes thin at the top and one feels her reticence in giving her all as she cannot get away in the studio with flat notes which still passed on the scene. Therefore her Agathe is too tentative, too restrained as the voice no longer can respond to the character’s needs. Richard Holm was a fine Mozartean, a good Tamino though more a Pedrillo than a Belmonte. The voice is beautiful, smooth and well-projected with a good clear diction but the role is a size too big for him and he sometimes has to force in ensembles. Bass Kurt Böhme has more than the size. With a big booming voice he is a fine devil often too much relying on exclamations and Sprechgesang and some people will probably prefer the more smooth interpretation of Gottlob Frick or Karl Ridderbusch in later recordings. Eberhard Waechter in the small role of Ottokar is cast from strength and so is Walter Kreppel as Samuel.

There is no libretto included with this budget issue.

Jan Neckers

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):