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

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Stéphanie D’Oustrac: Sirènes

After D’Oustrac’s striking success as Cassandre in Berlioz Les Troyens, this will reach audiences less familiar with her core repertoire in the baroque and grand opéra. Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and La mort d’Ophélie, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and the Lieder of Franz Liszt are very well known, but the finesse of D’Oustrac’s timbre lends a lucid gloss which makes them feel fresh and pure.

Luminous Mahler Symphony no.3: François-Xavier Roth, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.3 with François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, now at last on CD, released by Harmonia Mundi, after the highly acclaimed live performance streamed a few months ago.

A First-Ever Recording: Benjamin Godard’s 1890 Opera on Dante and Beatrice

The composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is today largely unknown to most music lovers. Specialist collectors, though, have been enjoying his songs (described as “imaginative and delightful” by Robert Moore in American Record Guide), his Concerto Romantique for violin (either in its entirety or just the dancelike Canzonetta, which David Oistrakh recorded winningly decades ago), and some substantial chamber and orchestral works that have received first recordings in recent years.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

Le Bal des Animaux : Works by Chabrier, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie et al.

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.

Wolfgang Rihm: Requiem-Strophen

The world premiere recording of Wolfgang Rihm's Requiem-Strophen (2015/2016) with Mariss Jansons conducting the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks with Mojca Erdmann, Anna Prohaska and Hanno Müller-Brachmann, from BR Klassik NEOS.

Ravel’s Magical Glimpses into the World of Children

This is the fifth CD in a series devoted to Ravel’s orchestral works.

About an enfant: Ravel’s Opera about Childhood and Debussy’s Prodigal Son

This recording of Ravel’s second (and last) one-act opera was made during a concert, and -somewhat daringly - with rather close microphone placement. As it turns out, everything went smoothly.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Hugo Wolf: Prometheus — Orchesterlieder
12 Jun 2006

WOLF: Prometheus — Orchesterlieder

Like other nineteenth-century composers, Hugo Wolf (1860-1903) orchestrated some of his Lieder, and his contributions to the genre of Orchesterlieder are impressive.

Hugo Wolf: Prometheus — Orchesterlieder

Juliane Banse, soprano;Dietrich Henschel, baritone; Duetsches Symphonie-Orchester, Berlin, Kent Nagano, director.

Harmonia Mundi HMC901837 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

He scored only twenty-four of his songs for voice and orchestra, including pieces from three collections, his Mörike-Lieder (13 Lieder), the Spanisches Liederbuch (4 Lieder), and the Goethe-Lieder (7 Lieder). Wolf’s inspiration for scoring these songs seems to be connected to the composer’s pursuit of opera as a means of expression. While that motivation seems to have culminated in the opera Der Corregidor, the orchestral Lieder he left should not be regarded as mere exercises in orchestration, but are remarkable for the details he elicited when he took the piano accompaniments into the orchestral score. This recording contains all of Wolf’s efforts in this genre, with the pieces divided between two fine singers, the soprano Juliane Banse and the baritone Dietrich Henschel, who offer some fine interpretations of the music. Both singers are well-suited to this repertoire; just as their recordings of Lieder with piano accompaniment are effective, they work well in the larger canvas of the orchestral settings.

Those familiar with the piano versions of these songs know the music, but these pieces are significant for the distinctive orchestrations that Wolf contributed to enhance the meaning and suggest some aspects of interpretations. When compared with the orchestral versions, the dynamic markings found in the Lieder with piano accompaniment seem more relative than the volume implicit in the scoring of “Prometheus,” for example. In that piece the volume and intensity of the orchestra not only underscores the vocal line, but enhances its focus. Wolf is not merely forceful, but sensitive to the timbres he can elicit from the full orchestra. Dietrich Henschel delivers a convincing performance of this particular piece, which relies, as times, on sonorities reminiscent of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer. In this venue, the song, which is used as the title of this recording, stands well alongside the version with piano accompaniment as a separate and yet powerful conception of the music.

In contrast the heaven-storming sounds of “Prometheus,” Wolf demonstrates a sense of delicacy with “Mignon” (the famous text “Kennst du das Land” that others, including Schubert and Schumann had already set) with a scoring that contains some carefully place woodwinds and horns to intersect the strings that carry the piece. This recording of “Mignon” benefits from the careful phrasing and sense of text that Juliane Banse brings to the music. Kent Nagano is likewise sensitive to the orchestral palette that demands a deft hand. The sometimes darker colors Wolf used in the latter part of “Mignon” contribute to the resolution of song in the final lines that are scored more brightly in which the singer points the way to another world.

The colorful orchestration of “Der Rattenfänger” suggests some techniques that Richard Strauss used in a contemporary tone poem, like Till Eulenspiegel, and suggest further the deft scoring that Wolf contributed to these versions of his songs. Not only are these settings of the Goethe-Lieder of interest, but a piece like “In dem Schatten meiner Löcken” from the Spanisches Liederbuch becomes, perhaps, a bit more dramatic in the orchestral version as the voice interacts with the orchestral in a structure that is comprised of a melodic line linked to its accompaniment. The scoring in these and other pieces is, perhaps, denser than the textures associated with the orchestral songs of Gustav Mahler or Richard Strauss. In the fuller orchestrations, though, Wolf not only looks backward on some of the sonorities associated with German opera, but he also is able to extract from the larger forces some refinements that anticipate, in a way, the approach Arnold Schoenberg would take in his cycle Gurrelieder.

With, for example, “Denk’ es, o Seele,” Wolf reinforces in his scoring some of the colorful harmonies that can lost in the piano accompaniment, depending on the emphasis of the performer. In this song Henschel uses the spaces between the interjections of the orchestral to bring out his vocal line in executing this piece. Similarly, Banse shapes the line of “Gebet” as she plays off the orchestra. This resembles in some ways the way that Wolf structured “Karwoche,” with timbres reminiscent of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal. Yet “In der Frühe,” Wolf tends to be more expressionist in his use of orchestral colors, and Nagano brings out the careful scoring effectively.

All of the pieces on this recording are for solo voice except for the Mörike setting (from the novel Maler Nolten) entitled “Der Feuerreiter,” which Wolf scored for chorus and orchestra. An extended piece, “Der Feuerreitter” sounds more like an excerpt from a cantata than an orchestral song, and it has found its way into various concert programs. In fact, a performance of this very piece is part of a recently released retrospective CD of Daniel Barenboim’s tenure as conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who included it in the repertoire he led with that organization. A larger piece because of its use of chorus, “Der Feuerreiter” is also impressive, with Wolf’s use of orchestra underscoring the drama implicit in his setting of the text.

In fact the commentator Habbakuk Traber refers to “Der Feuerreiter” as one of the two great ballads in this collection, with the other being the song “Prometheus.” In making such an assessment, Traber aptly describes these pieces and the other Orchesterlieder as being “between epic and drama,” a perspective that may have been in mind when Wolf decided to score these pieces from his other Lieder. The term “epic” seems best understood qualitatively, rather than the formal sense, with the love songs Wolf chose to orchestrate being, perhaps, have a slightly stronger emotional pitch than some of his other settings. Notwithstanding such a distinction, in creating these settings, Wolf certainly made the pieces that he had originally composed with piano accompaniment into impressive orchestral compositions.

The performers, Banse, Henschel, and Nagano each demonstrate their commitment to this demanding repertoire, which presents on a single CD all of Wolf’s orchestral Lieder. The Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (founded under this name in 1993) brings a burnished quality to the performances, and the Rundfunkchor Berlin is adept rendering “Der Feuerreiter.” This is a fine recording that adds to the discography of Romantic Orchesterlieder, a genre that certainly deserves attention for its expansion of the German song beyond the traditional bounds of the solo recital with piano accompaniment. Those who know Wolf’s Lieder will want to explore the fine performances.

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):