Recently in Recordings
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered
and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has
happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by
Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.
This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the
most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100
songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable
artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan
Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles”
This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa
Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The
Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s
Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical
Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their
40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two
settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.
Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according
to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.
Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
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.