Recently in Recordings
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
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.
25 Aug 2006
MENDELSSOHN: Sacred Choral Music
The English “Oxbridge” choral tradition tends to be a cohesive one, most often with choirs of men and boys receiving similar training, singing a largely shared repertory in similar venues and in similar contexts.
Amid the unified tradition, however, certain choirs have claimed a sound more individualized than the traditional ideal, with St. John’s, Cambridge being one of the classic instances. Under the leadership of George Guest from 1951 to 1968, the choir became well known for its more continental timbre and directness of sound, a parallel development to the style in favor at London’s Westminster Cathedral under George Malcolm.
Guests’s organ scholars have included both Stephen Cleobury and David Hill, two of the leading figures in modern English church music. Interestingly, both Cleobury and Hill were at one time Masters of Music at Westminster Cathedral, where the continental style had long found a warm reception. Cleobury went from Westminster to King’s College, Cambridge, the standard bearer of what we might call the “traditional” sound; Hill, after fifteen years at Winchester Cathedral, returned to St. John’s in 2003. Interestingly, as this present recording under Hill’s direction shows, the sound at St. John’s has changed, with a more modulated treble in evidence and also a more pure blend. Thus, the recording is an opportunity to be reminded that no matter how rich the tradition in a given place, change, to a degree, is a part of keeping the tradition alive.
Mendelssohn’s choral music draws on diverse musical influences. J. S. Bach seems, naturally enough, often peering over Mendelssohn’s shoulder, as in the contrapuntal chorale fantasia form of “Aus Tiefer Not,” or the second half of the “Ave Maria,” whose running-note bass line under slower-moving choral writing reminds of the Credo from the B-minor Mass. In other instances, it is the chorale-rich Reform tradition itself that seems to be a guiding force, as in “Mitten wir im Leben sind,” an earnest and powerful work that seems to partake of Reformation zeal. Still in other pieces, however, Mendelssohn draws on early nineteenth-century melodic propensities, and writes beautiful chorale Lieder. One of the best instances of this on the recording is surely “Verleih’ uns Frieden,” and the choir’s performance unfolds with a remarkable naturalness and sense of line. This diversity is discernible in the program, but, that said, there is also a degree of sameness in many of the pieces, where eight-voice, rich textures in chordal style predominate.
The most familiar work on the recording is surely “Hör mein Bitten” (commonly “Hear My Prayer”). It may be a hearty perennial, but how welcome is this absolutely splendid performance. The treble soloist, Quintin Beer, who must carry much of the piece on his shoulders, is a joy. He sings with a big sound, well handled, with sensitive phrasing and an unforced high range. His sense of line and his ability to sustain—sustainability of line is one of the signature virtues of the recording—seem quite mature, and the confidence he brings is surely well deserved. “Hear my Prayer” was featured on the first of the sixty recordings that George Guest made on the Argo label. As this present recording is the first that St. John’s has made for Hyperion, we might excitedly await the next fifty-nine!