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

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Haitink conducts Elgar and Britten
02 Aug 2006

Haitink conducts Elgar and Britten

Commemorating some of its outstanding concerts of the 1980s and Bernard Haitink, its principal conductor (from 1967-1979), the London Philharmonic Orchestra has released on its own label a single CD that includes several pieces that brought notice to the ensemble.

Haitink conducts Elgar and Britten

Heather Harper, soprano, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernard Haitink (cond.).

LPO 0002

$15.99  Click to buy

While Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro was recorded on 27 November 1984, the Enigma Variations was recorded two years later, at a concert on 28 August 1986; Britten’s Our Hunting Fathers is an even earlier recording, which dates from 14 August 1979. These are recordings unique to the London Philharmonic Orchestra that have not been previously released commercially.

Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, Op. 47 (1904-5) may be less familiar to American audiences, but this is a fine example of the composer’s work for string orchestra with its concertato style that plays a string quartet against the entire ensemble. This work demonstrates the fine string ensemble that is typical of the London Philharmonic, and the sound quality on the CD gives a fine sense of the timbre. It is a work that deserves to be performed more often, and this release may inspire other orchestras to include this turn-of-the-century work on future programs. The interplay between the chamber group and string orchestra creates some intensive sonorities that anticipate scorings that Elgar would take up later in other works, like the Enigma Variations included in this release. While the liner notes suggest a concerto with the concerto grosso, this remains a single-movement work that drives to a wonderful conclusion, which is capped with the audience’s enthusiastic applause.

With more a familiar work, like Elgar’s Enigma Variations, op. 36 (1898-99), several fine recordings exist. Yet a live recording of a performance conducted by Bernard Haitink is welcome for the spontaneity and finesse that emerges in this release. Significant as it is to recall the puzzling aspect of the allusions in this music, knowing all the details is not as important as hearing the techniques Elgar used to develop his thematic ideas in the fourteen variations. In the tradition of the great orchestral variation sets, like Brahms’ Haydn Variations, Elgar’s piece remains popular because of both the strength of its content and the orchestration, which emerge colorfully in this live performance. Haitink offers a fine reading, where the winds and brass never overpower the string texture at the core of this work. The mercurial “Troyte” variation is telling for its precision – never do the brasses overwhelm the musicality that must occur in such a successful performance. Haitink’s shaping occurs at various levels, with clear articulations punctuating Elgar’s sometimes angular phrases, while also giving breadth to the sweeping phrases that are central to a variation like “Nimrod.” In that piece, Haitink has demonstrated his sensitivity to the larger structure while also attending to the details that must be in place. It is unfortunate that some audience noises intrude on the final section, “EDU,” in which Haitink brings the work to a majestic conclusion. Nevertheless, this is a solid performance that merits repeated hearing for the nuances that are part of it.

The third piece on this recording is Britten’s orchestral song cycle Our Hunting Fathers, Op. 8 (1936), which is a setting of texts by W. H. Auden. In this work Britten addresses the theme of hunting by treating it with gusto. No sacrosanct treatment of the topic, Auden used the opportunity to take the sport to task, and Britten underscored the ironic tone with music that sharpens the meaning further. At the same time Heather Harper offers an effective reading of this fine score. There are moments in which her ringing tones suggest timbres one encounters in Strauss’s operas – roles that she has been known to execute with aplomb. The five songs in this set benefit from Haitink’s sensitive tempos that allow the text to be heard clearly. Harper’s diction is clear from the start, such the texts published in the liner notes are not absolutely necessary. When the music demands a more lyric, rather than declamatory, approach, as in “Messalina,” Harper’s enunciation remains exemplary, and the line is always present. “Rats Away!” is telling for the prominent part the orchestral plays in tone painting, to which Harper responds well. It is a delight to know of this recording, which, like the other pieces included has the added quality of spontaneity from the concert performance now available through the London Philharmonic’s own label.

Again, this release of material from the London Philharmonic’s archive makes available some fine performances that deserve to be known better. Like another of its releases, a collection of excerpts from Wagner’s operas conducted by Klaus Tennstedt, this recording also celebrates Bernard Haitink, whose association with the Orchestra brought forth some fine concerts, like the ones represented by this selection. Those not yet familiar with the London Philharmonic’s own recordings can start with this fine compilation of three excellent examples of English music from the last century.

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):