Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
25 Aug 2006
BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 19
This installment of the estimable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recordings brings together cantatas from the middle of the Epiphany season, along with a “refugee” from Trinity XXIV), and the well-known motet, “Jesu, meine Freude.”
As in other volumes, the forces of the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner offer renditions that are technically, stylistically, and interpretatively benchmark performances.
That said, there are issues here and there about which one might quibble. Chief among them is a tendency in highly energetic sections to allow zeal and fervor too free a hand. As a result, articulations can seem, on occasion, exaggeratedly aggressive, even pecky, as in the opening chorus to “Ach wie flüchtig,” BWV 26 or the penultimate verse of “Jesu meine Freude.” Rhythmic verve is a signature trait of Gardiner’s interpretations and is often thrilling—the extraordinary storm aria of “Jesus schläft,” BWV 81 is a splendidly red-blooded example—but the line separating thrilling and “over-the-top” is not always easily judged.
Sometimes, too, the attempt to heighten the text with rhetorical delivery can seem exaggerated and mannered, especially in chorales. Satan’s storming and the raging of the foe in “Jesus meine Freude” (mvt. III) finds the choir arguably too dramatic for this straight-forward context. Sometimes it seems well to let a chorale be “only a chorale.”
However, how much remains that is superb! Soprano Joanne Lunn’s singing in “Mein Gott, wie lang?” BWV 155 is exquisite, with wonderfully clear timbres in the high register. Bass Gerald Finley is outstanding in “Empfind ich Höllenangst und Pein” from “Ach Gott wie manches Herzeleid,” BWV 3. His sound is rich, though well focused, and its forward placement and leanness allows his voice to move with clarity and flexibility. The text of the aria contrasts fear and pain with heavenly joy—challenging melodic contours for the former, decorative melisma for the latter—and Finley negotiates the whole affective range with ease.
In the liner notes to the recording Gardiner observes that in “Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid” “Bach reserves his most winning music” for the duet, “Wenn Sorgen auf mich dringen.” We would have immediately reached this conclusion with or without the tip! The buoyant uplift of the rising intervals is memorable, especially when teamed with elegant articulation and expressive decay on long notes, a characteristic care in the details. This is particularly evident in the bass aria “Ächzen und erbärmlich Weinen” from “Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen,” BWV 13. The aria is devoted to groaning and weeping, and Gardiner responds with a mannered degree of slowness in his tempo. The extreme slowness is something of an interpretative gamble, as it raises the risk of tedium, and challenges the performers’ control. However, the degree of nuance by soloist, violin, and recorder keeps the ear closely attuned, and the result is an unusually textured essay on sorrow.
The attention to detail marks these performances as singular, and that attention to detail seems all the more impressive in the circumstances of the Cantata Pilgrimage—a year of new cantatas every week in different venues. This volume, like its companions, thus documents not only the wealth of Bach’s output, but also the rich resources of seasoned historical performers and their inspired leader.