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.
21 Feb 2006
ARIOSTI: “The Flowering and Fading of Love”
Musicologists should be eager to welcome the “first modern recordings” of any work; surely having the opportunity to hear a long-lost musical treasure, rather than having it stare off the page in black-and-white, is something to be celebrated.
And indeed it is A Good Thing to have the opportunity to listen to a cycle of six Italian cantatas, since most examples of the genre available in modern recordings are single works.
But Ariosti? In the program booklet, Keith Anderson argues for the artistic significance of Ariosti, tracing his career as a viola performer and composer throughout Europe, and building an especially convincing connection with England and Handel. And indeed, Ariosti is certainly relevant among a number of skilled musicians who took advantage of the English fashion for Italian music in the first quarter of the 1700s, serving especially the Hanoverian court and its circles. But these six cantatas, while historically interesting, are not especially riveting music; and regrettably, the performance at hand doesn’t do much to “sell” the trans-historical worth of this remarkable violist’s compositions.
The scoring of the cantatas opens up a problem right away: the combination of baroque flute and baroque violin can be jarring given their very different timbres, and in this recording this reviewer finds it not especially pleasant. Reviol has a lovely tone (especially in the long notes), but her Italian pronunciation is awkward, the enunciation of words is sometimes blurred (especially in the arias), and her choice of breaths within a phrase is sometimes puzzling. van der Poel also has a somewhat tentative pronunciation, though her voice is rich and her delivery is more convincing.
Calling a harpsichord tinkly might seem analogous to calling coal black; but the instrument chosen for this recording is especially sewing-machine-like, and the phrasing and articulation used does not improve the situation (this harshness is especially noticeable in Cantata 5, “The Shipwreck”, but it does not seem to be a programmatic choice). However, the other continuo player – lutenist and theorbist Toshimoro Ozaki – plays with sensitivity and nuance, and the second cantata (“Honest Love”), in which he is joined by Robert Nikolayczik on gamba, is the most lovely of the bunch.
Filling in the remainder of the CD are two trio-sonatas, one by Locatelli and one by Vivaldi; flute and violin, now alone, seem better matched, but the harpsichord is still annoyingly tinkly – it would have been interesting for this reviewer to hear how Ozaki’s theorbo might have provided variety in the basso continuo realization. Still, these two works seem more an afterthought than a true match for the Ariosti cycle.
A note in the booklet indicates that texts for the recording are available online on the Naxos site as .pdf files. This is a rather ingenious solution to the high costs of booklet reproduction, but those who acquire the CD will have to resign themselves to keeping the texts separate from the CD itself, which might turn out to be annoying.
I am very glad that this recording was made, and I will ask my university library to acquire it. It provides a rare teaching example of a style that brings the baroque idiom to a simplicity that foreshadows the gallant approach which would soon land on and conquer British shores. But perhaps characterizing this as a crucial teaching recording for musicologists is damning praise indeed.
The University of Texas at Austin