Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

J. S. Bach.  Musical Offering
25 Aug 2006

BACH: Musical Offering

We can easily imagine the pleasure that Bach must have taken in presiding over a household that was both large and talented enough to form its own complete ensemble.

J. S. Bach: Musical Offering

The Kuijken Ensemble

Euroarts DVD 2050366 [DVD]

$17.99  Click to buy

In a letter from 1730 he writes:

Now I must add a little about my domestic situation. . . From my first marriage I have three sons and one daughter living. . . . For the second marriage I have one son and two daughters living. . . . The children of my second marriage are still small, the eldest, a boy, being six years old. But they are all born musicians, and I can assure you that I can already form an ensemble both of vocalists and instrumentalists within my family, since my present wife sings a good, clear soprano, and my eldest daughter, too, joins in not badly.

The Kuijken Ensemble presents a compellingly symmetric situation, featuring three brothers—Wieland Kuijken, viola da gamba, Sigiswald Kuijken, violin, and Barthold Kuijken, transverse flute—who, along with harpsichordist Robert Kohnen, echo the familial music making that would have made Bach’s household a harmonious one. Moreover, the Kuijkens have played a leading role in the European early music movement since coming to prominence in the 1970s, both as artists of the highest caliber and teachers of great influence.

Bach’s Musical Offering, BWV 1079, fits well into this family theme, for the genesis of the work derives from a visit Bach paid to the court of Frederick, the Great in 1747, a visit that was surely attractive not only for its cultural opportunities, but also for the chance to see his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel, an important figure in the court musical establishment. Upon arrival Bach was presented with a “royal theme” for improvisation; the Musical Offering represents a working out of this theme in many guises: a three- and a six-voice ricercar, numerous canons with intensely sophisticated counterpoint, and a four-movement trio sonata. As a large collection with a decidedly contrapuntal bent, it represents along with works like the Art of Fugue the nature of Bach’s last years, a time in which he takes on large-scale works and brings to them a seemingly inexhaustible contrapuntal technique.

The Kuijken Ensemble’s performance is a masterful one, characterized by an expressive style so elegant and refined that the question of technical demand never even enters one’s mind. The difficulties of Bach’s writing—and there are many challenges here—remain comfortably sub rosa, while expression and affectivity trump all other concerns. And that this is the case transforms the canons from works of potential abstraction to intensely personal statements. When the Kuijken brothers were presented with the York Early Music Festival Life Time Achievement Award, the presenter, Klaus Neumann, quoted Wieland Kuijken in what must surely be the brothers’ signature motto: “I keep fast to the idea that music is an intimate reaction between the score and its interpreter. Soul and heart have the last word.” And that “last word” is clearly their point of departure here.

The trademarks of this elegant playing surface in the details, of course—details like the sensitively contoured motions of phrase and motive, the variety of articulation, or the richness of vowel in the flute sound. Tellingly, the elegance seems equally as at home in the decorative filigree of the sonata as in the expansiveness of the six-voice ricercar.

The DVD records a live concert presented at the Altes Rathaus in Leipzig at the 2000 Leipzig Bach Festival. The nature of the visual content is straight forward with little to distract the viewer from the music. Given the nature of the music and the intensity of the performance, this is a well chosen approach. However, if the DVD is viewed as a visual work itself, not just a visual record of the concert, it might have benefited from a greater exploration of the room and a wider range of perspective. It was also a regrettable coincidence that found Kohnen seated in front of a broadsword mounted on the wall, with the predictable effect that at times it seemed to be growing from out of his head.

The Musical Offering is well represented in numerous recordings. For elegance and richness of expression, this one should go to the top of the list.

Steven Plank
Oberlin College

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):