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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
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.
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
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