Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

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

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.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

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.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

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.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

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.

The Tallis Scholars: Josquin's Missa Di dadi

‘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’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Gustav Mahler: Lieder
01 Jun 2006

MAHLER: Lieder

Among the interpreters of Mahler’s music in the late twentieth century, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Daniel Barenboim stand out for their various contributions.

Gustav Mahler: Lieder

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Daniel Barenboim, piano.

EMI Classics 7243 4 76780 2 [2CDs]

$14.98  Click to buy

Fischer-Dieskau is known for his work with Lieder, which includes live performances and recordings as a singer, as well as his teaching, in which he has perpetuated his musicianship to the next generations of musicians. Barenboim’s work as a conductor, most recently with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has involved performing as a pianist. This CD makes available recordings both performers made together in 1978, in which Barenboim accompanied Fischer-Dieskau on 35 of Mahler’s approximately 50 songs. Included in this two-CD set are the entirety Mahler’s Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit, the cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, the set of Fünf Rückert-Lieder, and twelve of Mahler’s settings of texts from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

While no longer actively performing and recording, Fischer-Dieskau remains an authoritative voice when it comes to Lieder, and those who wish to grasp his approach to Mahler’s songs may find an excellent representation in “Ich ging mit Lust,” one of the Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit. In this song, Fischer-Dieskau has taken a slightly slower tempo than some singers use, and this gives him the opportunity to bring out the melodic line and also to express the nuances of the texts. The diction in this song and the others in this recording is as clear and idiomatic as occurs in his recordings of Lieder by Brahms and Strauss. With the tempo fitting the text so well, Fischer-Dieskau makes the most of genre, which requires such a mutually expressive approach to exceed the limitations that occur when poetry is recited or melodies simply played. Likewise, Fischer-Dieskau brings out elements are sometimes passed over, such as the braying lines JKJKJKJK that Mahler accentuated more broadly in the later setting of “Lob des höhen Verstandes,” one of the songs in which he used texts from the anthology Des Knaben Wunderhorn. At the same time, Fischer-Dieskau sensitively allows poetic meter to modify the agogic accents of the melody in the song “Selbstgefühl.” It is this very sensitivity to the text that makes Fischer-Dieskau’s interpretation of the third song of the cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, “Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer” memorable for the drama and intensity often approached but rarely executed so well.

Hand in hand with Fischer-Dieskau’s vocal mastery is the expert pianism of Daniel Barenboim, who added nuance and color to the accompaniment without either exaggerating anything that is already present in the composition or adding elements that are not in the scores themselves. Pianists can take cues from the Lieder that Mahler orchestrated, which is in itself not only fair, but something that should be expected. In fact, it may be that knowledge of the orchestral version of such a powerful song as “Um Mitternacht” forces some pianists to emote unabashedly in that song, while Barenboim stops short of such overstatement.

Yet such delicacy is also part of Barenboim’s performances of Mahler’s earlier songs, which convey a freshness that sets this set apart from others. More than competent, Barenboim has set a standard from which other performances can take a cue. The sheer energy he exhibits at the opening of “Scheiden und Meiden” sets the tone for the singer to use in expressing the opening lines of the text. In other places, Barenboim defers to the voice by supporting it carefully, such that it is Gestalt of voice and piano that emerge in this uniformly fine set of recordings. Barenboim’s talent in the intimate setting of Lieder cannot be overestimated, particularly with regard to the details that are at the core of Mahler’s music.

When it comes to the settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the versions of the songs with piano accompaniment clearly deserve a place in the concert repertoire. Mahler intended both scorings for performance, without one superseding the other. The Orchesterlied was an idiom that Mahler used to fine effect in his music, yet he was not alone in writing for this genre, which includes works by Liszt, Wolf, Richard Strauss, and others. In pursuing works for this idiom, though, Mahler made use of the symphonic aspects of the orchestral accompaniment to set his scores apart from some of his contemporaries. While some of the Wunderhornlieder may be perceived immediately as symphonic because of their connection with his symphonies, the accompaniments of others contain scorings that resemble some of the passages in his symphonies. In executing these songs with piano accompaniment, though, it is too much to ask the pianist to emulate the orchestra, when the purpose is to support the vocal, which Barenboim does with finesse.

Take, for example, “Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt,” a piece that is known in at least contexts by the composer himself – a song with piano accompaniment, an orchestral Wunderhornlied, and its adaptation in a symphonic milieu as the Scherzo of Mahler’s Second Symphony – with a further use of the song by Luciano Berio as part of his Sinfonia. Given the resonances that come to mind with this song, Fischer-Dieskau and Barenboim deliver the Lied well with piano accompaniment, with the accompaniment idiomatically pianistic. Barenboim follows the score and avoids evoking orchestral effects that would, indeed, distract the listener. Yet in the intimate setting of the piano accompaniment, Fischer Dieskau treats the setting with subtlety and grace. The assonances that occur with the verb endings that conclude many lines in the first part of the poem help to reinforce the images of the various kinds of fish intermingling, as one word intersects another, yet remains clearly enunciated in Fischer-Dieskau’s precise phrasing.

Another familiar Wunderhornlied, “Revelge” may be familiar from Fischer-Dieskau’s earlier recording of the orchestral version (with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf), and yet the setting with piano accompaniment remains a convincing and effective performance of the piece. Sustained in mood, more like a dramatic scene than a typical example of Lieder, “Revelge” is not an easy song to perform because of the demands Mahler placed on the singer. In this interpretation Fischer-Dieskau and Barenboim interact well to create the mood and to draw on the musical and textual tension that is at the core of this piece. Other examples from this collection of settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn are also effective for the masterful approach both musicians took to the music.

Fischer-Dieskau and Barenboim recorded these performances in the Siemensville Studio, Berlin between 5 and 10 February 1978, a necessarily brief to capture so much music and, thus, to achieve an interpretive focus. The recordings were digitally remastered in 2005, thus achieving a good quality of sound. Nevertheless some aspects of the sound are reproduced here, which includes a fine sense of the piano and the nuances Barenboim delivers. At the same time, the placement of the microphone by the voice gives a clear image of Fischer-Dieskau’s instrument. Yet from time to time the baritone sound overbalances the ensemble and sounds somewhat forward. It is never strident, but can be a bit ringing. As with any recordings, though, the ear can compensate for such unintended results, just as it is able to hear past the noise and static of inferior recordings, which this is clearly not. Yet it helps to put the sometimes highly present sound of the voice into the perspective of the recording and not allow its liveliness to affect the assessment of the model performance by both musicians. The reissue of this set of recordings is welcome for making available some fine performances that continue to merit attention.

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):