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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.
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.
20 Apr 2006
Albert Lortzing has suffered much lately. Artistically speaking, he is somewhat moribund. In a recent article in the German operatic magazine, Orpheus, one writer rightfully complained that the once so popular composer has almost disappeared from the German theatres.
Even in the
sixties, his operas were played all over the German-speaking countries, while
nowadays one has to look carefully to find a performance. The reasons are
twofold. “Das Regie-Theater” has little attraction for
Lortzing’s well-crafted, very romantic “Spielopern”—
too civilized, too polite, too simple, not enough blood and adultery so that
one can shock spectators. Nowadays, as directors dictate what a general
manager may or may not put on the boards, there is no place for him.
Secondly, a cynical age such as ours, with cynical people all over the place,
no longer has room for the gentle characters of Lortzing or for operas that
are deeply drenched in the days of late feudal customs and small German
For most of his life, Lortzing lived in abject poverty—while
everywhere his operas were enthusiastically performed in those days without
author’s rights—he had to stoop to his audiences and to perform
what they liked or thought decent. This Undine is a fine example.
It’s almost the same story as Dvořák’s better-known
Rusalka, which is largely based on the Undine story. But
Rusalka premièred in 1901, 56 years after Lortzing’s opera, in
an age when artistic freedom had already some real meaning and author’s
rights were a source of income. So, Dvořák could keep the legend intact
and have his prince kiss the water nymph whereupon he dies. Lortzing, too,
preferred such a finale for his opera; but his audiences wanted a happy
ending. Therefore, the composer acquiesced to their wishes and
Undine ends with a rather sugary end: the prince kisses the nymph
and accompanies his love for eternity into her water world.
The performance under review was recorded for a radio performance on the
classical German music channel and appeared not long after on the Capriccio
label in full price version. This less expensive reissue, however, has no
libretto, just a short summary. This recording has only one rival, recorded
exactly forty-years ago; but what a competitor it is. The cast of the EMI
recording speaks for itself: Gedda, Rothenberg, Prey, Schreier, Frick. To be
somewhat blunt, almost none of the singers on this issue are on the same
level as their elders. This is especially true in the soprano department.
Both ladies here sing well, but without much charm or individuality. Both are
a little bit shrill and one has constantly to look at the sleeve notes to
know who is exactly singing. Pütz and Rothenberger have better and more
distinct voices on the EMI-recording.
The gentlemen fare somewhat better. Protschka has a good lyric voice,
seeminlgy destined to become the great German lyric tenor that somehow has
never materialized. But, he almost matches Nicolai Gedda’s Ritter Hugo
on EMI. His voice is not on the same level. Yet, there is the feeling for
this kind of music he probably knew well from his youth that is somewhat
lacking in the Swede's interpretation, who probably recorded while looking
for the first time at his score. Incidentally, there is a story that Gedda
was flown in at the last moment as a substitute for Fritz Wunderlich who had
recorded a magnificent Der Wildschütz by the same composer. Only his
tragic death prevented him from recording Undine. This is not true.
The EMI-recording was finished on the 6th of September 1966, while Wunderlich
died exactly 11 days later. On the Capriccio recording, baritone John Janssen
sings a noble and convincing water ghost Kühleborn, and he yields nothing to
EMI’s Hermann Prey—high praise indeed. Undine has one
common trait with Giordano’s La Cena delle Beffe—the
best known aria, a wonderful melodious tenor piece, belongs to the second
tenor. On record no one equals Wunderlich’s interpretation in a solo
album; but neither Peter Schreier (EMI) nor Heinz Kruse (Capriccio) is
mellifluous enough. Andreas Schmidt and Günter Wewel do well, but who can
nowadays compete with Gotlob Frick?
This performance has one big advantage: its completeness. It contains some
extra choruses lacking on the EMI, it gives us, finally, the fine ballet and
it provides some additional dialogue as well. Conductor Kurt Eichhorn is one
of the last maestri who can honour this kind of romantic piece and he
succeeds in giving us a fine interpretation, never pushing his singers but
not indulging in sentimentality either.
If you want to leave Verdi and Puccini for a while and discover a
wonderful melodious score, you would do well to purchase this issue. Maybe
Lortzing is old fashioned in the theatre, but on records he still holds his
own. In the meantime, you will discover that Engelbert Humperdinck and
Siegfried Wagner found a lot of inspiration from him. Should you be able to
read German, I can only advise to buy Lortzing—Gaukler
und Musiker by Jürgen Lodemann (Steidl Verlag, Göttingen). It is one
of the best researched biographies of a composer I have ever read. It tells
us a lot about the horrible artistic conditions Lortzing had to live with and
it illustrates in great detail how miserable, poor, honest and caring for his
wife and his eleven children Lortzing was—he buried 5 of them. He
himself died only at 50-years of age, a composer, who until the seventies,
was the most performed operatic genius in Germany after Verdi and Mozart.