Recently in Recordings
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.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity.
Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.
Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a
record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation.
01 Jun 2006
LE JEUNE: Autant en emporte le vent — French Chansons
In spite of the religious warfare that consumed France during the second half of the sixteenth century (which claimed the life of one eminent Catholic composer, Antoine de Bertrand, who was murdered by Protestants)*, musical life continued unabated.
Jeune, perhaps the most important of Protestant composers, lived to see the
accession of Henri IV, a Protestant who abjured his religion and returned to
the Catholic Church in order to become King (1593), but who managed to
achieve a cease-fire between the sides with the Edict of Nantes, which
allowed freedom of religion to the Protestants (1598). Le Jeune died at about
seventy in 1600, and we are fortunate that, though politics prevented his
works being printed during his lifetime, they were issued posthumously. Until
recently few had been issued in modern editions (though I recall being
entranced as a teen by his Te Deum, recorded in the Anthologie
Sonore in the fifties).
Le Jeune's output reflects a wide variety of styles — the more
traditional Parisian chanson, the settings of vers mésuré by the poet Baif,
Protestant psalm settings, and even a substantial number of canzonettas to
Italian texts (I have yet to see these last on disc). This is the third disc
by the Ensemble Clément Janequin to mine this rich vein (the two previous
devoted to chansons and sacred music respectively). The ECJ is one of our
treasures, resuscitating a huge and fascinating repertoire in almost four
(!!) decades of recordings, and it is to be expected that this collection is
first-rate. The quibbler/curmudgeon in me just sees a few mis-steps here. I
can't imagine that the arrangement of Laute joun (a rustic piece in
Gascon dialect) reflects the original — it's just too folk. As I don't
have access to the source, I can't nail this down in chapter and verse.
Povre coeur, entourné de de passions, de tant de nouveautés, de tant de
fictions makes ample reference to the musical novelties and musica ficta
of Le Jeune's Italian contemporaries (Marenzio, Luzzaschi, Gesualdo).
Unfortunately the busy lute added here confuses rather than clarifies the
musical difficulties. This should be a cappella, and much more Italian in
style — flexibility of rhythm, lingering over the chromaticisms. And
finally, the booklet, though it has notes in French, English and German,
gives the French texts, with no translations. Shame, shame, shame! I would
not like to see this continue. Even Anglophones with some French may need
help once in a while.
But these niggles are not enough to detract from your enjoyment of a
well-programmed and beautifully sung recording of important repertoire, a
worthy addition to the oeuvre of a fundamental ensemble. Warmly
* Editor's Note: The Protestant composer, Claude Goudimel, was
also a victim of the St.
Bartholomew's Day Massacre in August 1572. He is best known for his
contributions to the so-called Geneva Psalter. See Paul-André
Gaillard/Richard Freedman: 'Goudimel, Claude: Works', Grove Music