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

Mozart —  Airs Sacrés
25 Aug 2006

Mozart — Airs Sacrés

It seems only natural that the quality of radiance should quickly come to mind in contemplating the twelfth-century Basilica of Saint Denis, where luminous stained glass creates colored walls of mystical light.

Mozart — Airs Sacrés

Sandrine Piau, soprano; Les Talens Lyriques; Christophe Rousset, Director

Armide Classics ARM0009 [DVD]

TBD  Click to buy

And it is radiance that so wonderfully characterizes the lustrous sound of soprano Sandrine Piau in this live-concert DVD from the 2003 Festival de Saint-Denis. Piau, along with the period-instrument ensemble Les Talens Lyriques and conductor Christophe Rousset present an all-Mozart program, combining various arias with instrumental music featuring wind soloists from the orchestra. The title theme—sacred arias—may be a bit misleading. Certainly the “Et incarnatus est” from the Mass in C minor, K 427 unequivocally fits, and so will excerpts from Mozart’s oratorio, Betulia Liberata, K427—once you know it is from an oratorio—and Davidde Penitente, K469. However, the operatic aria from Zaide, K344, the operatic scene, Ah, lo previdi, K272 and the concert aria Ah se in Ciel, K538 seem to stretch the concept. Moreover, to rely on the “intimate and spiritual nature” of the instrumental works like the Sinfonia Concertante, K297b to rationalize their inclusion is to press the issue too far. Piau, in an interview that accompanies the DVD, refers however to a grace in the music that transports—here perhaps is a view that one may find a sacrality in the music itself, whatever its generic associations might be.

Piau’s singing is wonderfully well suited to this music. Her tone is superbly focused, but at the same time there is a very satisfying depth at the core of the sound. The focus allows her to sing with consummate clarity and flexibility; the depth of the sound enriches its intrinsic beauty. Her maneuverability with rapid glottal articulation is impressive, amply demonstrated in the acrobatic passage work of “Ah se in Ciel,” but so too is her gorgeous connection of notes, as in her graceful performance of “Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben.” (Zaide). Clearly a performer of wide stylistic range, Piau is as strong in coloratura display as she is moving in contemplative phrases.

Rousset’s leadership prompts highly engaged, dynamic readings throughout. Phrases abound in motion—every note and musical gesture seems full of intent and direction, with no “throw aways” in earshot. And yet the high degree of engagement never seems to encumber the buoyancy of the lines. Given the opportunity to dance, Les Talens Lyriques and Rousset take it every time. An affinity developed in the ensemble’s frequent baroque work? Perhaps. Surely, however, it is an affinity that serves the music well.

Of the two instrumental works, the Andantefor flute and orchestra, K 315 and the Sinfonie Concertante, the latter is by far the more substantial and gratifying work. Here the melodies are delightfully memorable, sometimes warm and expansive, other times playfully personable, and performed with skillful flair by solo flute, clarinet, horn, and bassoon.

As a video, the recording offers enough shifting perspective to keep things interesting, while resisting the temptation to glory in the famous building itself. It is difficult to imagine being in the audience at Saint Denis and not allowing one’s eye to wander and roam, and perhaps a bit of this in the visual content would have been welcome. But it is equally sure that the radiance of the performance needs no supplementary enrichment. A Mozartian jewel, indeed!

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):