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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.
24 May 2006
BACH: Alles mit Gott
A little over a year ago Bach scholar Michael Maul found himself in the exceedingly unusual position of having discovered a hitherto unknown Bach composition, a birthday ode for Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar, entitled “Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn’ ihn.
The discovery of Bach works
is not unknown in our day—the Neumeister chorale preludes saw light of
day in 1984, for instance—but the occurrence is rare and much to be
celebrated, as in this first recording of the ode from the Bach forces of
John Eliot Gardiner.
For Bach, “Alles mit Gott” is something of an unusual piece: a
strophic continuo air for soprano in twelve stanzas with lengthy instrumental
ritornello between the strophes. The text is by Johann Anton Mylius, who
penned the ducal salute as a trope on the duke’s motto, “Omnia
cum deo et nihil sine eo” (All things with God, and nothing without
Him). Both he and Bach imbedded separate patronal gestures in the ode itself:
orthographically Mylius creates an acrostic of the Duke’s name; Bach,
drawn we suspect to things numerological, supplies the continuo introduction
to the air with fifty-two notes, corresponding to the Duke’s
fifty-second birthday (1713), which occasioned the ode itself.
The discovery of any work by Bach is significant, and
“Alles mit Gott” rewards the listener not only with the aura of
novelty, but also with an engaging lyrical lilt in the dialogue between
soprano and bass. Does the lilt wear out after twelve successive stanzas? We
are not given the chance to find out, as Gardiner opts for a three-stanza
abbreviation, likely a smart choice where listeners are not closely attuned
to the details of the text. The length of the poem raises a significant issue
of proportion with regard to the string ritornello, as well. In the
abbreviated version, the nineteen string bars seem long relative to the
thirty-some odd measures for the voice. With twelve stanzas, however, the
need for a substantial variety is a more pressing one, to say nothing of the
singer’s need for vocal rest, and the length of the ritornello would
meet these needs well.
Soprano Elin Manahan Thomas sings the ode with a congenially youthful
sound, light and bright with notably clear articulation. The string band is
wonderful in its blossoming of major downbeats and also in its fluent
ornamentation on repetitions of the ritornello.
The remainder of the recording is devoted to live cantata excerpts from
Gardiner’s millennial Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, celebrating both the
dawn of the new millennium as well as the 250th anniversary of Bach’s
death. In a mammoth undertaking, Gardiner led performances of the entire
corpus of Bach’s surviving church cantatas on the appropriate
liturgical dates in churches throughout Europe and in the US from Christmas,
1999 to Christmas, 2000. The present recording offers a number of movements
from Pilgrimage performances, mostly arias,that highlight the rich interplay
of voice and obbligato instruments. All are accomplished renditions, and one
of the pleasures of the disc is the opportunity to hear so many different
soloists in a unified context—four different sopranos, singing arias
“side-by-side” is here a treat of riches. Of the four, I would
particularly single out Gillian Keith, whose performance of “Süsser
Trost” from Cantata 151 is memorable for her focus of tone and elegance
of execution. Keith is joined in this aria by flautist Rachel Beckett who
brings to Bach’s ever-inventive line a remarkable choreography of
Peter Harvey’s performance of “Es ist vollbracht” from
Cantata 159 with oboist Xenia Löffler is hauntingly beautiful, as well. One
of Bach’s most sensuous arias, “Es ist vollbracht,” weds a
slow-moving oboe line to string haloes and exquisite suspensions that
underscore Bach’s affective depths. Harvey’s ability to keep the
slow motion alive—a formidable challenge of control—and his lean
and yet resonant tone combine to make this one of the best in the