Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
22 Mar 2006
WHITACRE: Cloudburst and other choral works
There is little doubt about the popularity of Eric Whitacre’s music among North American choral ensembles. With the release of this Hyperion disc, the international choral scene may soon become enamored as well.
In fact, the exacting singing of Polyphony, under the direction of Stephen Layton, gives the world a better sense of Whitacre’s music than many American performances.
Most of Whitacre’s music can be described as tone poems. He paints with sound, moving to specific chords at just the precise moment to evoke the spirituality and sensuousness within the text. While words may not be set to specific colors, the overall sound and direction of the piece rely on a deep understanding of the poetry. Whitacre builds dense textures of sound that ebb and flow. He uses large cluster chords as structural pillars that develop from a sparse texture to a layered wall of sound.
With Polyphony’s accurate intonation, the clusters and clouds of sound shimmer with clarity. The music’s billowing and unique color shifts waft and settle in the ensemble’s perfect evenness of tone. Additionally, having been recorded in a large reverberant church, the music’s spaciousness is allowed to unfold into the air. Luckily, the words, the inspiration for such tone painting, are not lost in the dense texture because of the group’s crisp, clean diction.
While an entire compact disc of Eric Whitacre may seem monochromatic at times, Layton’s arrangement of the selections provides the greatest possible variety between the music’s emotional and spiritual centers. He precedes and follows many of the weightier works with lighter, simple pieces. The trauma, torment, and massive grief expressed in When David Heard are preceded by the elegantly simple Go, Lovely Rose, which conveys the opening of a flower. The disc’s title piece, Cloudburst, is arguably the most virtuosic and interesting selection. Polyphony’s incisive singing wonderfully evokes the many senses and sounds of a cloud bubbling with pressure and rupturing into rainfall.
When it comes to American choral music, sometimes there can be much to learn by allowing others to wrestle with it. The English sound and the Whitacre sonic universe form a happy union on this CD. The flawless intonation and clear, selfless tone quality of Polyphony, under their director Stephen Layton, bring a profound clarity and light to the dense flowing tonality of Eric Whitacre’s choral music.