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.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
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
Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The
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.
07 Apr 2006
No exact date is given for this performance and there is good reason for
it. The sleeve notes clearly state that baritone Enzo Sordello (of the 15
minutes of world fame when the Met fired him for clinging to a high note
longer than Callas) sings the role of Silvio.
While listening, I noted that
the voice doesn’t resemble much the far throatier sound of Sordello in
his best known official recording, the Decca/London Butterfly with
Tebaldi, Bergonzi, Cossotto of one year later. The catalogue of Myto and the
print on the CD, however, state that Sardinero was Silvio. If so, this must
be one of the world records as the Spanish baritone was only 19 at the time.
The La Scala site isn’t much help either. The very detailed and helpful
archives are no longer to be found on the net. Still, I know that Pagliacci
had a run of 6 performances and that Walter Monachesi also sang Silvio. So
for the moment my money is on him and I’d appreciate any reader’s
help in pinpointing an exact date on this live recording.
The sound is not always perfect. Sometimes it is a little bit murky and a
few times it wavers. Luckily, it’s mostly the chorus that suffers,
though that still is a pity as the La Scala chorus of that time sounded as if
every singer could have a solo career. Such a CD’s (and the whole
performance is on one) interest is concentrated on Giuseppe Di Stefano,
though his admirers maybe possess this performance already as it was
published previously on GDS and Movimento Musica. For those without this
recording, I can only say the tenor is in terrific voice. Yes, the weaknesses
of the time are there and they are well-known. He doesn’t cover enough
and his open-throated singing sometimes results in squeezing the sound out.
Above the staff, the voice starts thickening and is sometimes flat. But for
most of the time, he sounds very fresh-voiced with that beautiful, unequalled
timbre very much intact. Indeed, he sounds better than on his official
recording of 1954. Maybe his is not the voice to sing Canio; but one
wouldn’t be without this beautiful, lyric interpretation. And sometimes
the experienced singer knows how to have the listener sit up when he
unexpectedly introduces a beautiful diminuendo, where other tenors
just bawl on as in his “tu sei Pagliacco” in a magnificent Vesti
la giubba where he doesn’t use the “Gigli-improvement-sob”
of “Infamia, infamia” during the postlude, as so many other
tenors did (Del Monaco, Corelli). Yet, I admit I was quite surprised when he
didn’t sing or sob the final “La commedia è finita” but
prefers roaring it.
There is more to be enjoyed than the tenor, too. Clara Petrella is a
magnificent Nedda. She was one of the three great veristas of the
age (the other two being Olivero and Gavazzi) and maybe she had the best
instrument of them all. A big, rich and luscious soprano with the small
quivering of emotion in it that endears those singers to us. Though she never
breaks the line, the emphasis and the voluntary pressure on the voice make
her unforgettable. Yes, she can snarl but she snarls musically.
Baritone Aldo Protti probably was the favoured black beast of English
critics at the time; but, Decca/London soon dropped him. He was considered to
be dull and uninspiring. True he doesn’t have Gobbi’s inflexions
and colouring; and he phrases far less imaginatively than his great
contemporary, though he had far more voice at his disposal. Out comes a
wonderful big stream of a voice, though almost always at the same level. In
the house, one marvelled at the voice (and at the small size of the man); but
on records, indeed, one could use something more.
Walter Monachesi is a good solid Silvio though he sings the role more like
a Rigoletto than a young lover. And Luigi Alva as Peppe is casting from
strength of course. No theatre nowadays would probably think of asking Juan
Diego Flórez for this important second tenor role. A comprimario
Nino Sanzogno has some original thoughts on tempi. Quick is better with
him and already during the first measures of Canio’s entrance he is at
loggerheads with Di Stefano for a few seconds. He soon slows down as he well
knows that, in the pecking order of La Scala, he clearly comes behind the
tenor; but, the moment Di Stefano is gone, he hurries up. This must be the
fastest Ding Dong Chorus I know; and I marvelled at Petrella’s breath
control when he rushed her through her aria. The moment Di Stefano appears,
things once more revert to normal. All in all, a performance that surely must
be heard. They don’t make them like that any more.