Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Les Talens Lyriques: 18th-century Neapolitan sacred works

In 1770, during an extended tour of France and Italy to observe the ‘present state of music’ in those two countries, the English historian, critic and composer Charles Burney spent a month in Naples - a city which he noted (in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771)) ‘has so long been regarded as the centre of harmony, and the fountain from whence genius, taste, and learning, have flowed to every other part of Europe.’

Herbert Howells: Missa Sabrinensis revealed in its true glory

At last, Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (1954) with David Hill conducting the Bach Choir, with whom David Willcocks performed the piece at the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Willcocks commissioned this Mass for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954, when Howells himself conducted the premiere.

Le Banquet Céleste: Stradella's San Giovanni Battista

The life of Alessandro Stradella was characterised by turbulence, adventure and amorous escapades worthy of an opera libretto. Indeed, at least seven composers have turned episodes from the 17th-century Italian composer’s colourful life into operatic form, the best known being Flotow whose three-act comic opera based on the Lothario’s misadventures was first staged in Hamburg in 1844.

Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads - a new recording from SOMM

In 1877, Ethel Smyth, aged just nineteen, travelled to Leipzig to begin her studies at the German town’s Music Conservatory, having finally worn down the resistance of her father, General J.H. Smyth.

Wagner: Excerpts from Der Ring des Niebelungen, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, RCA-Sony

This new recording of excerpts from Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen is quite exceptional - and very unusual for this kind of disc. The words might be missing, but the fact they are proves to have rather the opposite effect. It is one of the most operatic of orchestral Wagner discs I have come across.

Wagner: Die Walküre, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Simon Rattle, BR Klassik

Simon Rattle has never particularly struck me as a complex conductor. He is not, for example, like Furtwängler, Maderna, Boulez or Sinopoli - all of whom brought a breadth of learning and a knowledge of composition to bear on what they conducted.

Dvořák Requiem, Jakub Hrůša in memoriam Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák Requiem op.89 (1890) with Jakub Hrůša conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Requiem was one of the last concerts Jiří Bělohlávek conducted before his death and he had been planning to record it as part of his outstanding series for Decca.

Schumann Symphonies, influenced by song

John Eliot Gardiner's Schumann series with the London Symphony Orchestra, demonstrate the how Schumann’s Lieder and piano music influenced his approach to symphonic form and his interests in music drama.

Unusual and beautiful: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė with the Kremerata Baltica, in this new release from Deutsche Grammophon.

Diana Damrau sings Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder on Erato

“How weary we are of wandering/Is this perhaps death?” These closing words of ‘Im Abendrot’, the last of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, and the composer’s own valedictory work, now seem unusually poignant since they stand as an epitaph to Mariss Jansons’s final Strauss recording.

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 3 & 4 from Hyperion

Latest in the highly acclaimed Hyperion series of Ralph Vaughan Williams symphonies, Symphonies no 3 and 4, with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded in late 2018 after a series of live performances.

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

This Accentus release of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, recorded live on 15/16th December 2018 at St. Thomas’s Church Leipzig, takes the listener ‘back to Bach’, so to speak.

Retrospect Opera's new recording of Ethel Smyth's Fête Galante

Writing in April 1923 in The Bookman, of which he was editor, about Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate (1913-14) - the most frequently performed of the composer’s own operas during her lifetime - Rodney Bennett reflected on the principal reasons for the general neglect of Smyth’s music in her native land.

A compelling new recording of Bruckner's early Requiem

The death of his friend and mentor Franz Seiler, notary at the St Florian monastery to which he had returned as a teaching assistant in 1845, was the immediate circumstance which led the 24-year-old Anton Bruckner to compose his first large-scale sacred work: the Requiem in D minor for soloists, choir, organ continuo and orchestra, which he completed on 14th March 1849.

Emmerich Kálmán: Ein Herbstmanöver

Brilliant Emmerich Kálmán’s Ein Herbstmanöver from the Stadttheater, Giessen in 2018, conducted by Michael Hofstetter now on Oehms Classics, in a performing version by Balázs Kovalik.

Liszt Petrarca Sonnets complete – Andrè Schuen, Daniel Heide

An ambitious new series focusing on the songs of Franz Liszt, starting with all three versions of the Tre Sonetti del Petrarca, (Petrarca Sonnets), S.270a, S.270b and S.161 with Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide for Avi-music.de.

Une soirée chez Berlioz – lyrical rarities, on Berlioz’s own guitar

Une soirée chez Berlioz – an evening with Berlioz, songs for voice, piano and guitar, with Stéphanie D’Oustrac, Thibaut Roussel (guitar), and Tanguy de Williencourt (piano).

A Baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi

A baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi, this year’s offering in their acclaimed Christmas series. Great value for money - four CDs of music so good that it shouldn’t be saved just for Christmas. The prize here, though is the Pastorale de Noël by Marc-Antoine Charpentier with Ensemble Correspondances, with Sébastien Daucé, highly acclaimed on its first release just a few years ago.

Christmas at St George’s Windsor

Christmas at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with the Choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, James Vivian, organist and conductor. New from Hyperion, this continues their series of previous recordings with this Choir. The College of St George, founded in 1348, is unusual in that it is a Royal Peculiar, a parish under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch, rather than the diocese.

From Darkness into Light: Antoine Brumel’s Complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday

As a musicologist, particularly when working in the field of historical documents, one is always hoping to discover that unknown score, letter, household account book - even a shopping list or scribbled memo - which will reveal much about the composition, performance or context of a musical work which might otherwise remain embedded within or behind the inscrutable walls of the past.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Gabriel Fauré: The Complete Songs 4—<em>Dans un parfum de roses</em>
16 May 2006

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs 4

Dans un parfum de roses (“Within the scent of roses”), is the fourth and final volume of the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré issued by Hyperion.

Gabriel Fauré: The Complete Songs 4—Dans un parfum de roses

Felicity Lott (Soprano), Jennifer Smith (Soprano), Geraldine McGreevy (Soprano), Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (Tenor), Stephen Varcoe (Baritone), Graham Johnson (Piano).

Hyperion A67336 [CD]

$18.99  Click to buy

This completes the remarkable set with a recording that matches the other volumes of the set in quality and attractiveness. Such laudable consistency may be fond at all levels, including the high level of performances, the meticulous program notes, and the careful planning that allowed for each recording to be arranged thematically.

Taking its title from one of the songs included in this volume, “Dans un parfum de roses blanches” (“Amid the scent of white roses”) the seventh piece in the cycle La chanson d’Éve, which is a late work of the composer. In La chanson d’Éve Fauré explores the primeval Garden of Eden by setting poetry that offers some sensual delights of Paradise – a Gallic “Earthly Paradise,” to evoke that image of the composer’s contemporary, William Morris – which is especially prominent in the first song in the cycle. As a late work, the music is sometimes more declamatory than Fauré’s earlier songs, with accompaniments that are sometimes sparse. Yet within those accompaniments are textures that suggest some evocative timbres, and Graham Johnson is sensitive to those aspects of the music. Jennifer Smith offers an exemplary reading of La chanson d’Éve, which contains some exquisite vocal pieces. This is apparent is the wonderfully sustained “Paradis,” one of Fauré’s longest songs, which benefits from the length he used to fine effect, as he indulges in details to portray a well-thought scene. .

Some of pieces are notable for other reasons, such as “Crépuscule,” the song with which Fauré began work on the cycle. In this song, Fauré attempts to evoke the atmosphere in Eden at night and, in doing so, hints at the fragile nature of primeval creation. This song is, in a sense, Fauré’s “Urlicht,” the song which Mahler used to establish in microcosm his vision of Resurrection in the final movement of the Second Symphony. With Fauré, such a parallel does not look to such a large-scale work as Mahler’s, but the less grandiose cycle is nonetheless poignant, especially in the interpretation found on this recording. Smith approaches this song with a fine sensibility to the nuances of the text in shaping the musical line, which benefits from the subtleties she brings to it and the rest of the cycle.

The elegiac aspect of the cycle should not be taken as something pejorative, since Fauré created in this work a sequence of songs in which he uses harmonic and rhythmic tension without resorting to the grand gestures. In “Prima verba” Fauré gives expression to Eve as she attempts to translate the majesty of the garden to mere words – albeit set to his wonderfully charged music. Likewise, “Roses ardentes” focus on the fiery roses that become a metaphor for various levels of interpretation. In these and the other songs that Fauré assembled in the cycle La chanson d’Éve the images of gardens to be portray a world that is at once lost to human existence and at the same time inescapable in the hopeful imagination of those who can apprehend the blending of poetry and sound .

While the cycle is, in toto, the greater part of the CD, the other songs included are also worthy of attention. In fact, some of pieces from early part of Fauré’s career are quite memorable. With its extroverted accompaniment, “Aubade,” (Opus 6, no. 1) shows a different approach to the textures of the chanson in Fauré’s hands. At the same time, the “Nocturne” (Op.s 43, no. 2) is memorable for its modal inflections that connote an exotic aspect. Beyond the color contributed by modality, the accompaniment contains some flourishes that add to the charm of this piece, which Stephen Varcoe delivers convincingly. His contributions to this CD are as consistently fine as his others in this set. Likewise, Dame Felicity Lott’s performances in this collection are equally fine. With “Les roses d’Ispahan” (Op. 30, no. 4) Lott offers a model of execution, with her clear diction contributing to the shape of the musical line. Here Graham Johnson supports the performance in giving the accompaniment a contour on which Lott can build her own phrases. “Le parfum impérissable” (Op. 76, no. 1) is similarly nuanced in delivering the images expressed in the poetry that attracted the composer.

In fact, all the performances resemble those of Lott in their mature and satisfyingly competent execution. With Fauré’s unique English-language song, “Mélisande’s Song” that sets a translation of Maeterlinck, for example, Geraldine McGreevy exhibits a clear expression of the text and also phrasing in a tongue not always celebrated for being singable. In fact, McGreevy does not need language to express emotion, since her performance of Fauré’s “Vocalise-étude” is quite effective in its purely musical expression that stands apart from the otherwise texted pieces in this collection. Elsewhere, the male singers, like Varcoe and Jean-Paul Fourécourt deliver similarly effective renderings of the repertoire recorded under the title of this CD, “Dans un parfum de roses.”

As the final installment of the four volumes that make up the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré, this CD has much to offer. Like each of the other recordings, it can stand alone through the guiding theme with which it was compiled. With the music divided among the various performers, the works benefits from the strengths each brings to the effort which is unified by the fine efforts of Graham Johnson’s exquisite pianism. The entire approach to Fauré’s songs taken in this release by Hyperion is well-thought and sensible, thus, making this multi-volume set a touchstone for future interpretations of this important repertoire. In addition to comprehensive listing of all of Fauré’s melodies found in the Hyperion set, the liner notes for this volume contain much information about the songs that will be of assist in rehearings of the fine performances on this CD. Those who are not yet familiar with the other volumes of the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré could start with this recording, since it not only completes this excellent set, but stands on its own as a fine compilation of the composer’s memorable chansons.

James L. Zychowicz
Madison, Wisconsin

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):