Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
19 Apr 2006
Song of America: Music from the Library of Congress
In connection with the joint project by Thomas Hampson and the U.S. Library of Congress to present events about American song and other creativity at venues as varied as Kansas City, Fort Worth, and Carnegie Hall, EMI Classics has released this CD containing tracks from three earlier discs featuring Thomas Hampson.
If you already own these discs, there is nothing
new here besides the notes and the program order, but since two of the discs
are no longer in the active catalogue, this new release offers a good
sampling of the fruits of Hampson’s championship of American art song
while providing a souvenir CD for his recital tour.
For Hampson disc collectors wishing to cut to the chase, eight songs are
taken from An Old Song Resung, a 1990 recital of “American
Concert Songs”, six first appeared on From the Soul,
Hampson’s sung and recited 1997 tribute to the poetry of Walt Whitman,
and the remaining six are from American Dreamer, a 1992 collection
of Stephen Foster songs arranged for his voice and an old-time music ensemble
of violin, guitar and piano (this is the disc that is still in the active
catalogue). The songs are interspersed, although most of the Whitman songs
are heard near or at the end of the program (the exception being Ned
Rorem’s “As Adam Early in the Morning”, which opens it).
Thus, most of the Stephen Foster songs are in the company of ballads like
Haydn Wood’s “Roses of Picardy” (which is actually an
English song but was widely sung in the US after World War I) and Walter
Damrosch’s catchy, martial setting of Rudyard Kipling’s
“Danny Deever”, which was apparently Theodore Roosevelt’s
favorite song. Concert songs dominate the middle of the program, with Charles
Griffes’ “An Old Song Resung,” telling of a catastrophic
shipwreck, echoed just a bit later in the traditional “The E-ri-e
Canal”, which humorously uses shipwreck language to tell of an
ill-fated canal trip, at the end of which “the crew are all in jail,
and I’m the only sea-cook son that’s left to tell the
Hampson’s powerful and expressive voice brings these songs to life,
but, with his extensive experience with German Lieder and other European art
song he is equally at home with Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s tender
“Tomorrow (When you are Gone)”, and John Duke’s slightly
spooky “Luke Havergal” (which has been a favorite of mine since I
acquired the disc on which it first appeared). Hampson says he began studying
American art song in hope of identifying the American Mahler or Schubert, but
has come to see in the entire genre a kind of conversation among poets and
composers of what it is to be making “America”. Thus, he
approaches all the songs with directness and unpretentiousness, which he
considers an important quality of American song. So, while Hampson can bring
to Leonard Bernstein’s complex “To What You Said” the full
artistry with which he approaches Mahler’s songs, he is also fully at
home with the fiddle, piano, and backup vocals of long-time “roots
music” performers Jay Ungar and Molly Mason as they present
arrangements of Stephen Foster’s ballads, in which Hampson sees an
attempt to create an American version of Thomas Moore’s Irish ballads.
(Foster’s livelier, and possibly more controversial, minstrel songs are
not a part of this program, so we hear “Beautiful Dreamer” and
“Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, but not “Oh
Susannah” or “De Camptown Races”, which figure in
instrumental medleys on the American Dreamer disc.)
The program closes with settings of Walt Whitman poems about the Civil
War, including songs by Kurt Weill and Charles Naginski, and concluding with
“Ethiopia Saluting The Colors,” as set by African-American
composer Henry Thacker Burleigh. Nowhere is Hampson’s view of the
project of American song more focused than in these songs, in which serious
composers of varied ethnic backgrounds set words in which the father of
American poetry engages with the fundamental episode in America’s
development of its identity as a nation.
Information on American Art song in general and the remaining recitals in
the Library of Congress series can be found on Thomas Hampson’s website and that
of the Library of