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.
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Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
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Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
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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
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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.
18 Apr 2006
Lawrence Brownlee: Lieder & Song Recital
A few years ago I picked up a buzz among those close to the Seattle Opera Young Artists’ Program that there would be a truly remarkable young tenor in the program’s production of La Cenerentola that year.
Indeed, Lawrence Brownlee’s beautiful
voice and astonishing ease of delivery in the vocally challenging role of
Ramiro made it clear why he was already scheduled to make his debut at La
Scala later that year. Bel canto lovers who
haven’t caught him yet there or at the Met, or at any of the many other
venues where he has sung since then, can now hear him courtesy of EMI
Classics “Debut” series.
The program consists of songs in Italian by the familiar figures: Bellini,
Donizetti, Verdi, and Rossini, along with four Italian songs written by Franz
Schubert several years after studying with Antonio Salieri. According to
Brownlee’s comments in the CD booklet, he and accompanying pianist
Martin Katz chose these songs to “work programmatically, be enjoyable
for the listener, and be meaningful for us to perform”. Cutting the
swath that they do through the heartland of Brownlee’s home repertoire,
they also serve as a fine showcase for the tenor’s outstanding quality:
the ringing, forward delivery of beautifully phrased Italian that just
doesn’t quit, whether he is soaring above the staff, spinning a long
legato line or lightly skipping through a coloratura passage.
Any of these tracks can serve as a textbook example of how well-produced
bel canto singing is at once exciting and relaxing for
the listener—the sound flows so easily, no matter where the musical
line goes with respect to the staff, or how many notes the phrase contains,
that we can simply allow ourselves to be carried along with it. What I find
missing here are the pianissimo passages that add a meltingly beautiful
contrast to the bright ring, creating the paradox of even deeper emotion in
the hush than in the exclamation. (I don’t remember noticing this lack
when I heard him before, and I can’t help wondering whether the
experience he has had singing in larger houses since then has pushed him
toward making a larger sound overall.) The result is that the recital as a
whole is not as interesting to listen to as it could be, although there is
certainly a lot to admire in its performance.
Richard Wigmore in the CD booklet describes the Vier
Canzonen of Schubert as suggesting “Mozart filtered through
Rossini”, and indeed I am reminded of “An Chloe” when I
hear the passing of the melody between the piano and voice in “Da quel
sembiante appresi.” These songs were written as exercise pieces for a
Viennese singer to learn to sing in bel canto style, and
any student would be well advised to listen for the care with which Brownlee
pronounces every consonant (including the doubled ones) clearly while
sustaining the legato line.
The Verdi set opens out the emotional landscape with its longer, more
sweeping phrases, and introduces a buffo element in
“Lo spazzacamin”, contrasting the sound of the chimney sweep
calling out his trade to the public with the light, almost conversational
description of the usefulness of what he does and how he will make
one’s life better.
Donizetti’s representation is limited to two pieces,
“L’amor funesto”, which reaches toward opera, and “Me
voglio fa ‘na casa”, a perky song in Neapolitan dialect. The
Bellini songs range from three of the Sei ariette, which most voice students
will encounter sooner or later, to the delectable “La
ricordanza”, in which the melody (familiar from “Qui la
voce” in I puritani) is passed from piano
introduction to vocal statement, and then back to the piano as the vocal line
becomes declamation. In this piece Brownlee’s skill with Italian
diction and phrasing, as well as his ability to shape a beautiful melodic
phrase, can be very instructive to the student of bel
canto who listens attentively.
The Rossini section begins right after this with “La danza”,
demonstrating to the full Brownlee’s consistently forward diction in
the nonstop barrage of Italian consonants and vowels, winding up with a
series of ringing held notes that continue into upward phrases (on one
breath, of course). The only reason to perform this piece is to impress (and
possibly amuse) the audience, and, as far as I’m concerned, both Katz
and Brownlee succeed admirably. This sets up the more lyrical “La
lontananza” and “L’esule” , finishing with two of
Rossini’s many settings of Metastasio’s “Mi lagnerò
tacendo”, one in the style of an aria antica and
the other an opportunity to display some long, smooth phrases in high
tessitura, at which Brownlee excels.
The CD booklet contains notes by Richard Wigmore in English, French, and
German, as well as comments by and a bio of the singer. Texts and English
translations of the songs are available on the EMI