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

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Mahler: Symphony no. 6 in A Minor
16 May 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 6

In recent years the Sixth Symphony of Gustav Mahler has gained some prominence with the declaration by the internationale Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft about the only correct order of the internal movements, a position that has inspired some discussion among enthusiasts.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 6 in A Minor

Budapest Festival Orchestra, Ivan Fischer, conductor.

Channel Classics CCS 22998 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

To release a recording of this work now almost requires that the Andante precede the Scherzo. While this is the way the composer himself performed the work and also the order in which Mahler saw the revised edition of the Symphony into print, the work has been also performed and recorded for decades with the inner movements in the other order.

Without dwelling on editorial issues, it is indeed difficult to dispute the authority of the composer’s own choices for performance. However, it remains for succeeding generations to deal with the editorial decision made by Erwin Ratz, the editor of the first critical edition of the Sixth, who returned the inner movements to the original order. More importantly, his edition influenced at least a generation of conductors. Thus, the discography of Mahler’s music includes some fine performances that follow the critical edition of in having those inner movements reversed. Jascha Horenstein’s recording of the work with the Stockholm Philharmonic is one of those performances earlier of the earlier version of the score, and it still comes up in various comparative assessments of recordings.

Other performances aside, the present recording of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony by the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Ivan Fischer offers a fine reading of the work. It is a creditable performance by this ensemble, which Fischer has shaped in the mold of other festival orchestras, like the famed one in Lucerne, Switzerland. The liner notes include some comments about Fischer’s rehearsal techniques with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and his emphasis on chamber-music ensemble textures. Such an approach should be useful for works like Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, in which the composer used various smaller groupings of instruments within the larger structure of a four-movement symphony.

Fischer’s reading of the first movement is intense for its relentless pace, which fits the music well. This approach certainly keeps the ensemble tight, but it also lacks the shape that occurs in some other conductors, where the phrases stretch, and short pauses offer cues to the audience to apprehend the structure of the music. Those kinds of nuances are welcome, but certainly not part of the notated score, to which Fischer adheres faithfully.

Likewise, the second movement, the Andante moderato, is paced well, but it is ensemble, rather than tempo that is crucial for this piece. At times, some of the winds seem a bit overbalanced, as oboe passages soar out uncharacteristically from some of the supporting string textures. In fact, the winds are, perhaps, a bit richer sounding than might occur in an actual performance. This is not to detract from this performance, but rather the way it was preserved in this recording. It is a minor point, but the balance seems off when the cowbells enter, later in the movement, giving the impression of being, perhaps closer, than the effect the Mahler wanted of suggested sounds in the distance in a more evocative than direct sense. A similar directness may be found at the conclusion of the movement, where entire orchestra seems to be recorded perhaps a bit closely, with some of the sonorities seeming closer to the speakers than might occur in a live performance.

With such a presentation in place, there is no question about the direct opening of the Scherzo, which opens unequivocally. In his extroverted approach to this movement, it is possible hear some thematic connections with the Seventh Symphony that result from the balance of sonorities that Fischer brings to this movement. After the opening, the textures thin as if to offer a sense of release, and this approach to timbre allows the nuances of the Scherzo to emerge. While the brass can be quite forward in the middle of the Scherzo, they strings often match them in intensity. As much as commentators quibble about the success of various conductors’ interpretations of this movement, the approach Fischer has taken sounds convincing.

Likewise, the Finale of this cyclic work offers challenges in concert that are successfully overcome in a studio recording like this one. To convey the structure of this complex movement requires the sensitivity to thematic connections, as Fischer has done. At times the string textures are, perhaps, less resonant than found with other orchestras, but the ear can compensate for that weakness. What emerges is a well-connected rendering of the movement in which the various thematic linkages relate to each other while they also evoke ideas from other movements. Fischer presents a vivid concept of the Finale, which is one of Mahler’s more complex structures.

It is difficult to think of a single recording of this work that overshadows the rest, but those who appreciate the work will find some insights in Fischer’s interpretation. Again, his sound is generally forward, and those who want to find their concert experiences reproduced on recordings may be disappointed with sometimes unrealistic balances. Nevertheless, the ear can accommodate those moments where the trumpet might be a bit too prominent or the overly percussive entrance of the low strings. At the same time, this allows the conductor to capture the drama of the work in this recording, which Fischer maintains throughout the final measures in the incredibly intense code with which Mahler ended this magnificent work.

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):