Recently in Recordings
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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
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.
02 Aug 2006
Ann Murray and Malcolm Martineau: Schumann, Mahler, Britten
Recorded in early May 2005 at Crear, an artists’ community in Argyll, Scotland, this CD contains selections of Lieder and songs that fit well the supple voice of the mezzo-soprano Ann Murray, who is accompanied facilely by the Scottish pianist Malcolm Martineau.
The program is varied,
which starts with Mahler set of five Rückert-Lieder, songs that date
from the first decade of the twentieth century. Murray’s thoughtful
performance of these songs is a good reminder of how fresh the pieces can be
in the hands of a musician like her, who is sensitive to both the melodic
line and the text. Nowhere does she overstate what is implicit in the text,
especially in “Liebst du um Schönheit,” a subtle song that works
well with Murray’s understated approach to the piece that requires the
control of an experienced Lieder singer.
At times the music reaches beyond the intimacy of the fine acoustic used
for this recording, as with “Um Mitternacht,” with its hymn-like
echoes that call to mind the orchestration Mahler made. If Murray is
sometimes overtly extraverted in interpreting this piece, her subtlety is all
the more apparent in “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,” a song
that the composer himself thought to be one of his finest efforts. Martineau
certainly creates a fine ensemble with Murray in delivering this song, and
the nuances he contributes anticipate the way he approached some of the other
music on the CD in what is essentially a recital at Crear.
It is unusual to find a work from an earlier period following such a
modern one as Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, and the placement of Robert
Schumann’s cycle Frauenliebe und Leben at the center of this
recording is a wise choice. Albert von Chamiso’s texts point out some
moments in a woman’s existence, which receive a fine treatment from
Murray and Martineau. While the room sometimes swallows a few of
Murray’s lines, it also offers a good ambiance to the piano. The
performers give the pieces a proper ensemble, as occurs in the second song of
the cycle, “Er, der Herrlichste von allen.” The understatement in
“Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben” fits the tone of
the piece well and shows the supportive role Martineau can offer when playing
this repertoire. All in all, this is a solid performance of this familiar
cycle that benefits from the even and appealing treatment of the vocal line
that Ann Murray brings to the recording.
Yet the pieces by Britten on this CD are treasures. Less familiar than
either the pieces by Mahler or Schumann, the Charm of Lullabies is a
work that deserves to be part of more programs, placed, perhaps, after music
that is more traditional. Murray brings personal and effective expression to
the English poetry Britten set, with the charming Scottish tones of
“The Highland Balou,” a setting of Burns that cannot be missed
for its incessant Scotch-snap rhythm in the accompaniment. In the hands of a
composer like Britten, English is a highly lyric language, and that aspect of
the pieces is not lost on Murray. The patter-song influence on “A
charm,” a setting of poetry by Thomas Randolph, is effective in
rendering a different kind of lullaby. “Sleep! Or I will make Erinnys
whip thee with a snake” and the lines that follow are hardly the kind
of verse an earnest parent would offer before sleep. Yet the final piece,
“The Nurse’s Song,” with version by the sixteenth-century
poet John Philip contains some wonderfully seductive harmonies.
Restful as that piece may be, the first of Britten’s Cabaret
Songs, “Calypso” can rouse anyone’s attention with its
strident whistle. The archness of the texts of this song, as well as the tone
of the others in the set, sounds as though the music was conceived for
Murray, who delivers them with panache. Martineau accompanies her with
finesse, as these somewhat popular-sounding songs round out this engaging
program. Britten’s effort in these songs, as well as the others he
composed, shows the development of the artsong in the twentieth century. Not
precisely Lieder in the strictest sense, these pieces are enjoyable because
of the way in which the text and the music balance each other smartly. As
with the Charm of Lullabies, the composer chose his texts carefully,
an aspect of his song output that makes the music attractive to performers
and their audience.
James L. Zychowicz