Recently in Recordings
Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
19 Jul 2006
Leyla Gencer in Concert
There are lieder-recitals and there are lieder-recitals. In my experience Lucia Popp, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Margaret Price stuck to their Lieder-guns till the last item, sometimes offering Strauss’ Zueignung as an encore.
And then there are the more, shall I say,
‘modern’ singers, usually not from Central Europe, who know all
too well the public is there for the voice and less for high art. When the
official programme is over, the public sighs a bit and waits for the real
meat: some unabashed opera aria where the singer can finally lash out. Grace
Bumbry was one of the first to use the method. Studer, Kasarova and
Hvorostovsky refined it by often choosing such lieder (often by Strauss or
Tchaikovsky) that could easily have been an aria. And Renée Fleming really
found the solution to it all by carefully choosing a theme, like music
inspired by Goethe so that she could hop from Gretchen am Spinrade
to “Roi de Thulé – Ah! Je ris de me voir si belle” from
Gounod’s Faust a long time before the encores were on.
This Gencer-recital still goes back to the time when opera was reserved
for the encores but make no mistake. The La Scala public puts up with the
music out of love for the soprano and not out of reverence for Bartok or
Liszt. Though the Hungarian songs are divided into groups according to a
theme, Gencer already gets a hearty applause after the first song while the
second one goes without though it concludes the theme. If anyone should still
have doubts, try track 3; a slow Transylvanian dancing song. Gencer finishes
it with her trade mark: an ascending pianissimo that seems to last
for eternity and the house comes down as this is the exact thing they came to
hear. Not that the record’s worth is limited to Gencer’s famous
head voice. She is in fabulous voice: warm and charming and at her best
behaviour. The many glottal attacks she often used and which sometimes marred
her operatic performances are almost completely absent. The voice stands like
a house and there is no trace of a wobble. With her peculiar sound, she is of
course at her best in slow melancholy songs like the Lamento Panaze
(track 8). I cannot judge her Hungarian but she is probably one of the few
non-native speakers at the time to get away with it as Hungarian is not a
European but an Asian language that adapted a lot of Turkish words; and
Gencer is, after all, the most famous Turkish singer.
In the Liszt songs she is even better, especially in Pace non
trovo (track 18) where she can mix pathos with her virtuosic agility
borne out from long experience with Donizetti. And then it’s time for
the public to sit back and relax and listen to her encores: a noble rendering
of Roberto Devereux, a heart warming ‘Ah non credea’ from
Sonnambula, a role she had only sung twice in her long career. And,
being an old pro, she refrains from adding the cabaletta ‘Ah! Non
giunge’ which probably would have put too much strain on the voice
after such a long career. She ends with an aria from Les Martyrs,
the reworked version of Poliuto which she had created in modern
times and which she would sing once again two months after this La Scala
recital (available on CD; a must). I would advise to have the sleeve notes in
hand when purchasing this record. They are really informative and are written
by Franca Cella, who wrote a big Italian-language biography of the soprano
(which was sadly never translated into another language).