Recently in Recordings
This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
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?
19 Jul 2006
GUERRERO: Missa Surge Propera
The composers Morales, Guerrero, and Victoria form a holy trinity of sorts, dominating Spanish church music in what we have come to see as a “Golden Age,” a time in which sixteenth-century liturgical polyphony assumed a classical perfection.
Moreover, given the flourishing of
mysticism (Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, for example) and the
rich body of religious paintings associated with El Greco, we can place this
“holy trinity” in a cultural milieu where religion assumed an
unusually strong hold.
There are several things that make Guerrero distinctive among this three,
not least the biographical color that derives from his trip to the Holy Land
and his confrontation with pirates on the voyage. He also is, of the three,
the only one to compose a significant body of secular works in addition to
masses and motets, a notably wider range of compositions. And while this
recording from Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars restricts itself to
liturgical works, it is Guerrero’s range that once again seemss
notable. We are treated here to music that ranges from abstract counterpoint
to highly affective, emotional expressions, and the affective qualities
themselves span luxuriant dolor to exuberant joy.
The Missa Surge Propera is a more abstract work than the motets,
with closely controlled counterpoint and long stretches of uniform texture
and procedures. Phillips, however, remains alert to the text and sculpts the
architecture of the piece with dynamic and tempo inflections, and also a fine
ear for large-scale effects. Sometimes Guerrero points the way, as in the
Credo where the incarnation section becomes simpler, but in all cases,
Phillips is intent—successfully so—in uniting classically
constrained contrapuntal writing with engagingly dynamic interpretation.
Occasionally, when the interpretation evokes strength, the reading seems
perhaps overly strong. For example in the “pleni sunt caeli”
section of the Sanctus, long notes are unusually intense and square shaped in
a way that seems less rather than more expressive. This is all the more
apparent in that the well-contoured, shapely line is a hallmark of
Phillips’ beautiful conceptions of the motets.
Some of the motets are lamentative, like “Usquequo, Domine”
and “Hei mihi, Domine,” and this musical lamentation was
particularly resonant with the Spanish spirituality that defined the
“dark night of the soul.” “Usquequo” is poignant with
its lachrymal descents and homophonic settings of individual phrases, all of
which receive a finely attentive response from Phillips and the Scholars.
(And the last chord is simply sublime!) At the other end of the emotional
spectrum, the “Regina caeli” highlights a joyful richness of
sound, and the performance dazzles with its brilliant dynamism.
The Tallis Scholars, now in their thirty-third year, remain among the best
interpreters of sixteenth-century liturgical polyphony. And in this Guerrero
anthology, it is the commitment to an expressive mode of interpretation
itself that marks the recording with trademark distinction.