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

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Willy Burkhard: Lieder
24 Jul 2006

BURKHARD: Lieder

Refreshingly modern and familiar at the same time, the Lieder of Willy Burkhard (1900-55) are better known in his native Switzerland than anywhere else.

Willy Burkhard: Lieder

Annemarie Burkhard, soprano; Simon Burkhard, piano

Musiques Suisses 6235 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

The Lieder collected on this recording span his career and include Sieben Lieder, op. 4 (1922-24); Sechs Lieder, op. 5 (1923-25); Vier Lieder, op. 6 (1924-26); Zehn Lieder, op. 25 (1930); and Neun Lieder nach Gedichten von Christian Morgenstern, op. 70 (1943-44). Except for two cycles of Rilke settings for voice and orchestra, these are essentially the entirety of Burkhard’s Lieder.

In pursuing his own voice as a composer, Burkhard used of dissonant sonorities and complex rhythms within his essentially tonal; likewise, he allowed the form of his texts to inform his musical structures. Yet within these songs, Burkhard indulged in some interludes that point to a conception of some Lieder beyond merely using music to set his texts. The first song, “Ein fröhlichs Ostlieder,” op. 4, no. 1, is an good example of his approach, which places the energetic rhythms that reflect the exuberant feast of Easter. In other places, the traditional-sounding melodic line becomes the point of departure for a more complex song. This occurs in “Der Gärtner” (op. 5, no. 3), a setting of a text by Eduard Mörike (1804-75). In that song, the folklike line at the opening is punctuated by an increasingly dissonant accompaniment, while the vocal line eventually moves into a freer harmonic idiom that sounds like some of the soaring melodies associated with the songs of Richard Strauss. Not a copy of Strauss – or anyone else, for that matter – Burkhard reflects an individual approach to modernism at a time when various styles coexisted.

In "Verborgenheit” op. 5, no. 6 (with a text by Mörike), Burkhard establishes the character of the song with an energetic accompaniment that becomes, in turn, the framework for the vocal line. The use of modality contributes to the meaning of the piece, which begins “Lass, o Welt, o lass mich sein! (“O world, let me be”) – a plea for isolation from all the things that can become painful in life, as does Burkhard’s inflection of the text in the melody itself.

Likewise, the relentless figuration of “Der Postillon” op. 6 no. 3, is reminiscent of the accompaniment Schubert used for “Gretchen am Spinnrade,” and the other motifs in Burkhard’s setting contribute to this effective setting of Lenau’s text. At the same time, the accompaniment should not be construed as an imitation of the earlier composer, since it its juxtaposition with a slower harmonic rhythm creates a different kind of effect. The last song in that set is “Nacht,” which makes use of a poem by Walt Whitman in German translation, and in it Burkhard’s setting includes the use of planing with parallel sonorities that contribute a stark, solemn character to the song.

With the Zehn Lieder, op. 25, six of the settings are to texts by Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914), whose shorter, more pointed verse were met by Burkhard with some equally focused music. The lyricism in even these relatively short songs has a counterpart in some of the Lieder of Strauss. In such a song as “Schwalben” op. 25, no. 4, the melismatic phrases for the voice convey the text well, with flourishes that composer’s enthusiasm for the poetry. Yet in a more syllabic setting, like “Was Liebe ist - ?” (op. 25, no. 6), Burkhard achieves a kind of poignancy about the mysterious nature of love that even the Romantics could not express. This setting of Knud Hamsun’s poem is pursues love without the cliché trappings and is hardly the overly evocative piece that some could create. It is modern in the understatement that helps to create the meaning, an element that may be found in both the text and its music.

The later songs in the opus 70 collection are equally strong and benefit, perhaps, from the focus exclusively on the poetry of Christian Morgenstern, whose evocative lyrics evidently affected Burkhard. The first of the songs in the later set, “Präludium,” contains some imagery that would inspire any composer, and Burkhard not only captures that in the melodic line, but also underscores it in the accompaniment. This song, for example, conveys an exuberance associated with Strauss – this song evokes Die Liebe der Danae, albeit on a small scale which is nonetheless not an easy feat.

Without commenting on each of the songs in this recording, it is difficult not to find something to recommend in each of them. The songs are the work of a solid composer who contributed some fine pieces to the genre. The modernism that Burkhard used does not reflect a bygone trend that might have been part of the isms that were part of twentieth-century culture. Rather, the pieces have a timeless quality, another aspect of their attraction.

As to his poets, the use of texts by Mörike, Lenau, Gotfried Keller, and other Romantic authors shows Burkhard’s connection to the mainstream of Lied composition. Yet it is interesting to find among his songs settings of non-traditional authors, like Whitman, and contemporary figures, such as Richard Dehmel (1863-1920). Like generations of composers before him, Burkhard respected the tradition in which he was working and, at the same time, took inspiration from the poets whose work was being published and circulated in his day.

All of these songs are performed by Annemarie Burkhard, who brings a clear, elegant soprano tone to the music. Simon Burkhard accompanies his wife, and his facile and expressive style serves his father’s music very well. They are fine interpreters of music that clearly deserves a wider audience. Like some of the other Swiss composers of the twentieth century, like Frank Martin, Burkhard is an engaging composer. Like Martin Burkhard’s ability to integrate elements from various styles goes beyond mere eclecticism to arrive at a personal style.

It is a pleasure to encounter this kind of music in a recording, so that it is possible to know that these works exist. At the same time, it would be a delight to hear these songs included on recital programs and performed by various singers, who could bring them to audiences from time to time. While Burkhard may never displace the hegemony of the German Romantics, his Lieder exist in their tradition and demonstrate a vital outgrowth of their presence in the repertoire the composer knew. Would that more performers could take Burkhard’s music forward and, perhaps, inspire yet another generation of composers to take the artsong further in the twenty-first century.

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):