Recently in Recordings
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.
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During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
22 Apr 2006
Tönet, ihr Pauken!
Bach’s famed career as an organist, his prolific output of church cantatas, and his personal piety, all conspire to keep the image of the churchly Bach front and center in the modern mind, despite the enduring familiarity and popularity of Brandenburg concertos, sonatas, and suites.
more inclusive image of Bach not only reflects historical reality, but also
reminds us of the fragility of the sacred-secular boundary in Bach’s
day, a boundary that he traversed with ease, if he recognized it at all.
Günther Stiller has made the case that for an eighteenth-century Orthodox
Lutheran the divisions of sacred and secular are ill-fitting, for the
Orthodox believer would have sought to consecrate those things that we too
quickly see as mundane. In this light, then, a recording of celebratory
secular cantatas offers not so much a different side of Bach as much
as a variation on a unified theme: music for any occasion, crafted with
consummate skill and inspiration worthily reflects the divine. And it is in
this way, too, that we can begin to understand the easy flow of musical
materials across the divisions of sacred and secular. In one of the cantatas
here, “Tönet, ihr Pauken,” BWV 214, several movements later
appear in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, where their presence
raises not even the remotest scintilla of stylistic impropriety.
Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocal Gent have a long-standing
tradition of Bach performance, and the two cantatas performed here,
“Tönet, ihr Pauken” and “Vereinigte Zwietracht der
wechselnden Saiten,” BWV 207, are rendered with a style-consciousness
and technical mastery that must surely define “state of the art.”
Both cantatas are festive, commemorative works: “Vereinigte
Zwietracht” salutes the appointment of a young professor, Gottlieb
Kortte, at the University of Leipzig (1726); “Tönet, ihr Pauken”
is a birthday offering for the Electress of Saxony, Maria Josepha (1733).
Both cantatas either borrow from other Bach works or are the source of future
borrowings—“Vereinigte Zwietracht,” for instance, gives a
rollicking choral version of the third movement of the first Brandenburg
Concerto, and there is much delight in meeting an old, familiar friend in
this less familiar garb! Both cantatas are allegorical: Diligence, Honor,
Gratitude and Happiness voice the praises of the Professor, whereas in the
Electoral salute it is Peace, War, and Fame who sing, embodied in the
mythological goddesses Irene, Bellona, and Fama. And finally, both cantatas
reveal how short the distance is from secular to sacred.
Herreweghe’s performances are rooted in dance-like elegance and
contoured shapeliness of line and motive. The celebrative nature of the works
is clear both in the festive trumpetings, admirably executed by Guy Ferber,
and in the energetic flurry of melismata that so frequently abounds here.
Characteristically, Herreweghe responds with an exuberance that never
threatens to get out of hand. Shapelieness, contour, and elegance all reign
without rival. Even the opening timpani motive of “Tönet, ihr
Pauken” is a model of verbally-based inflection!
Much of the duty falls to the solo ensemble of Carolyn Sampson, soprano,
Ingeborg Danz, alto, Mark Padmore, tenor, and Peter Kooy, bass, all of whom
seem well attuned to Herreweghe’s stylistic model, particularly as they
dance through their florid passage work. Padmore and Sampson both have
wonderfully free high registers; the lower voices of Danz and Kooy claim a
richer resonance, though never at the cost of agility or focus. The choral
forces of Collegium Vocale Gent are wonderfully flexible and articulative. If
any issue seems to arise at all, it is that they are, in fact,
choral forces. The case for Bach’s choir being one of solo
voices—at least in church music—is well rehearsed by now, with a
number of devout adherents. Herreweghe’s use of a choir reminds that
the debate remains open-ended, and becomes also a compelling example of how
effective choral forces can be.