Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Richard Strauss: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 

Così fan tutte from DG

Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled Great Wagner Singers.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity. 

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation. 

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):