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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.
17 May 2006
CHARPENTIER: Te Deum and Grand Office des Morts
In the modern performance of seventeenth-century French music, the ensemble Les Arts Florissants holds a special place, both for its longevity and the striking stylistic fluency it brings to performances — performances that have come to define our very sense of French Baroque style.
This present recording of liturgical music by
Marc-Antoine Charpentier is no exception in this regard, for what impresses
most is the naturalness of the performance idiom. The intricacies of French
ornamentation, the timbral richness of French Latin, the shapely contours of
line, the elegant embodiments of dance all prove second nature to Christie
and his ensemble, elevating manner and artifice to true eloquence.
The opening “Te Deum,” one of several by Charpentier, is
well-known, at least for its opening Marche en rondeau, a rousing bit of
splendor out of which we moderns have constructed a musical icon of Louis
XIV’s France. In its diverse aspects—alternately martial,
dance-like, and intimate—the “Te Deum” evokes the close
unity of church and state, often impressively so. And the variety makes for
interesting listening. If the straight-ahead D major gloire is the
brightest hue, there are also shimmering dissonant mixtures in luxuriant
moments that underscore the richness of Charpentier’s harmonic
palette—luxuriant moments to which Christie remains ever sensitive.
The “Grand Office des Morts” brings together a funeral mass,
the Requiem sequence (“Dies irae”) and a motet on a purgatorial
theme, all of which share proximity in Charpentier’s “Méslanges
autographes,” the composer’s extensive collection of compositions
in his own hand. There is little to suggest the pieces were composed or
performed as a unified work, although the present performance amply
demonstrates how effective that can be. Like the Te Deum, this “Grand
Office” is also varied, but its prominent hue is often a dark one, as
in the quietly controlled tristesse of the opening
“Kyrie” or the pronounced languish of the harmonically rich
“Agnus Dei.” The most memorable instance of this lamentative
darkness is the instrumental prelude and final refrain of the motet. Low
strings and hushed vocal dynamics cloak the plea for mercy in sepulchral
shadows whose darkness is sublimely affective. Rapture is also close at hand
in the chain of suspensions that begin the “Pie Jesu,” reminding
of the formidable influence of Italianism in Charpentier’s works.
The recording is of a live concert given in Paris at the Cité de la
Musique in 2004. On occasion the balance seems askew, with solo parts
disproportionately loud relative to a somewhat distant sounding tutti, surely
the result of the challenges of live recording in public venues. A regret, to
be sure, but a small one relative to the many pleasures the performance