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

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.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

Jonas Kaufmann : Mahler Das Lied von der Erde

Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

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.

The Tallis Scholars: Josquin's Missa Di dadi

‘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’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Ikon
25 Aug 2006

Ikon

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen have a particular affinity for pre-modern polyphony, as their long discography, teeming with the music of the Eton Choirbook, assorted Renaissance masters, Handel, Bach, and others, amply shows.

Ikon

The Sixteen; Harry Christophers, conductor

Decca B0006825-02 [CD]

€10,29  Click to buy

However, they have also long cast a wide net in terms of repertory, frequently performing and recording twentieth-century works, as well. Most memorably, sometimes the counterpoint between the two is especially rich, as in their recording of two settings of the Scottish devotional text, “O bone Jesu,” one the famous nineteen-voice setting by Robert Carver (16c) and the other a new setting by James MacMillan, commissioned by the ensemble (“An Eternal Harmony,” Coro 16010 [2002]). With this present recording, Ikon, the ensemble underscores its breadth by presenting an anthology of works that are, for the most part, Orthodox in style and aura. Liturgical works by Rachmaninov, Kalinnikov and Chesnokov are prominent in the program, joined by the modern musical mystics, Arvo Pärt and John Tavener, the latter’s work also rich in Orthodox evocations. To these Christophers also adds a few works by Stravinsky—originally with Slavonic texts, but revised to bear Latin texts—MacMillan, and Holst.

If Orthodoxy is the strongest theme, there is a somber secondary theme of death, as well. The program includes both Tavener’s “Song for Athene,” famously sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales (1997) and his “Exhortation,” a commission for the Festival of Remembrance at Royal Albert Hall (2003), setting John Maxwell Edmonds’ profoundly moving words, “They shall not grow old . . .”; MacMillan’s “A Child’s Prayer” is a memorial work for the school children slain in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996; Pärt’s “The Woman with the Alabaster Box” brings Jesus’s burial into focus; and the two settings of the Canticle of Simeon (Kalinnikov and Holst) set the words of a righteous man at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, now free to die, having seen his Saviour.

Much here is beautifully sung, with exquisite blend and tuning, well-crafted phrases, and a powerful dynamic range all evident. And this is surely what we have come to expect from The Sixteen. Unsurprisingly, the singers often adopt here a warmer, more vibrant sound than is their usual. They are obviously well attuned to the notion that no one sound meets all needs. However, despite the added warmth and vibrancy, I find the sound still identifiably to be one formed in the English tradition, and thus, although unflaggingly beautiful, a sound somewhat at odds with the Russian tenor of the program. It seems as though the clarity and focus of the tone—a glory of English choirs—overrides the need for a more characteristic heft of sound.

The Englishness of the sound is most at issue in the works of Rachmaninov, Kalinnikov, and Chesnokov, although the latter’s “Tebe poyem” finds The Sixteen’s basses impressively commanding in the low register. Christophers also brings to this particular piece an extraordinarily controlled slowness that allows the romantically wistful harmonies to unfold with expressive weight.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Englishness of the sound serves the music of Pärt and Stravinsky well. In Pärt’s “De Profundis” much is spare and minimal, a musical and spiritual austerity enhanced by the clarity of the sound. Similarly, Stravinsky’s “Ave Maria” and “Pater noster” want little in the way of inflection, and the pure, focused sound here helps to keep the subjective at bay.

Admirers of English choral singing in general, and The Sixteen in particular, will find this an expressive and moving recording. Certainly I count myself among their number. Some will wish for a more Russian sound in some of the pieces. That said, you will have to search far to find more sensitive readings of these deeply spiritual works.

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):