Recently in Recordings
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
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.
25 May 2006
NICOLAI: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor
Klaus-Edgar Wichmann, in the booklet essay to this Capriccio recording from 2002 of Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, describes the work as having "asserted itself in the opera repertoire for more than a hundred years."
Well, it needs to reassert itself. In the US, at
least, and probably anywhere outside the German-speaking world,
Nicolai's vibrant, tuneful score has taken a very distant backseat to
Verdi's late masterpiece Falstaff, adapted from the same Shakespeare play (not one of his most admired, either).
By putting the focus on Sir John from the first scene, Verdi and Boito
loosened an undercurrent of human frailty that deepens the sometimes
rough comedy of Shakespeare's original. Nicolai worked with librettist
Hermann Salomon Mosenthal, and they start and end with the merry wives,
with Falstaff making a grand entrance late in act one. In its way, this
makes the comedy palatable, as the sheer outsize humanity of Verdi and
Boito's Falstaff can evoke — as it does in your reviewer — feelings of
antipathy for the bougie hausfraus who dump a foolish old man in a
river and conspire to assault him with sticks. The German rendition
focuses on good-hearted hijinks, in a lighter comic vein.
Nicolai's score has met a fate not unlike many of Rossini's early
comedies — it is best known for its overture, which sparkles with the
opera's most melodic material, tunes that reappear in act three, giving
a nice balance to the composition. Falstaff gets a rousing drinking
song, Fenton a most delightful romanza, and the whole opera is
tastefully peppered with duets, trios, and other ensembles. In other
words, the music elicits smiles as much as the story. This opera needs
to be staged more often.
Capriccio's recording has a fine cast. Juliane Banse, Andrea
Bönig, and Regina Klepper sing the title roles with good humor,
and the fine bass Franz Hawlata does a lusty take on Sir John. Dietrich
Henschel, a solid if unexciting baritone, sings Herr Fluth (Ford, in
the Verdi opera). As the young lover of Herr Fluth's daughter Anna,
Jörg Dürmüller makes no particular impression.
The problem for this worthy set? The existence of a 1963 recording on
EMI, with a cast including Gottlob Frick, Edith Mathis, and most
damaging to the Capriccio set in the field of comparison, Fritz
Wunderlich as Fenton. Just to hear his exquisite "Horch, die Lerche
singt im Hain!" makes this older set eternally fresh.
The EMI set also includes the spoken dialogue, separately tracked for
easy skipping for the dialogue-phobic. Capriccio spares such souls the
effort by omitting the dialogue altogether, shaving about 10 minutes
from each disc's running time. Helmuth Froschauer leads the Cologne
Radio orchestra on the Capriccio set, and ably, but not quite with the
verve of Robert Heger and the Munich ensemble on the EMI.
So go for the EMI set if the opera appeals, but if can't be found, the
Capriccio recording certainly offers a commendable version of this
regrettably under-performed work.
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy