Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Ann Murray and Malcolm Martineau: Schumann, Mahler, Britten
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.

Ann Murray and Malcolm Martineau: Schumann, Mahler, Britten.

Ann Murray, mezzo-soprano, and Malcolm Martineau piano.

Avie AV2077 [CD]

$15.99  Click to buy

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

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):