Recently in Recordings
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.
28 Aug 2006
POULENC: Figure Humaine and Dialogues des Carmelites
Francis Poulenc is well known for the religious works that comprise much of his oeuvre after he was traumatized by the accidental and premature death of his friend Pierre-Octave Ferroud in 1936.
Although Poulenc (1899 – 1963) had realized in the late 1920s that he was homosexual, the death of Ferroud triggered his return to Catholicism. Despite Poulenc’s renewed commitment to the faith of his childhood, his relationship with religion was a conflicted one. Additionally, Poulenc’s tendency toward intense melancholic emotions was further exacerbated by World War II.
Recently two recordings have been released on CD that feature two of Poulenc’s most highly acclaimed works, each of which reflect themes of religion and war, though the recordings couldn’t be more different from one another. Ponto has released a remastered recording of Dialogues des Carmélites (1953 – 6) performed by the Vienna State Opera on Nov. 8, 1961 under the baton of Berislav Klobucar; and Harmonia Mundi presents several of Poulenc’s works for a cappella choir, including Figure Humaine, performed by the RIAS-Kammerchor conducted by Daniel Reuss.
The Vienna State Opera recording of Dialogues des Carmélites (Die Gespräche der Karmeliterinnen) is a slice of history on a CD. The recording, which includes Emmy Loose as Blanche, Elisabeth Höngen as the old Prioress, Hilda Zadek as the new Prioress, and Christel Goltz as Mother Marie, is a live recording replete with audience noise and applause. The Ponto label, owned by Mitridate, specializes in releasing unique live recordings that are not otherwise available on CD. In this day of digital touching-up and pristine production, it is refreshing to hear artifacts of live performance on a recording. While it is disconcerting to hear Dialogues sung in German instead of French, one need only consider that the opera was premiered in Italian at La Scala to be reminded that “authenticity” in performance is ever unattainable.
The enthusiast will likely be frustrated by the lack of information in the booklet that accompanies the two-CD set. Limited notes on the circumstances of the opera’s composition, a synopsis of the opera, and bios of the lead singers are provided in English by Andrew Palmer. However, the tracks are labeled in only by their German titles, and there is no libretto, in German or otherwise. Furthermore, there is no information on the specific circumstances surrounding this particular production of Dialogues by the Vienna State Opera. The operatic voice fanatic, however, will be delighted to have some of the greatest women to sing at the Vienna State Opera on a single recording. Unfortunately, a cursory search of several major record retailers indicates that this recording may be difficult to track down should one want to purchase it. Mitridate appears to be based in the Netherlands, and only has one distributor listed, also apparently in the Netherlands. [Editor's Note: Ponto is distributed in the U.S. through Qualiton Imports Ltd.]
In contrast, RIAS-Kammerchor’s recording of Figure Humaine and other of Poulenc’s choral works is highly accessible in all senses of the word. Daniel Reuss directs this highly polished performance of Poulenc’s Sept Chansons (1936), Un Soire de Neige (1944), Figure Humaine (1943), Quatre Petites Prières de Sainte Françsis d’Assise (1948), and Chanson à Boire (nd). These performances are simply wonderful: Each piece is sensitively interpreted and beautifully textured. Reuss and his choir do a stunning job of presenting Poulenc in all his seriousness, melancholy, and concern for humanity. The final work is a short coda to the rest of the CD; Chanson à Boire is a drinking song that reveals Poulenc’s more light-hearted and mischievous side.
The album contains brief program notes by Hervé LaCombe that situate Poulenc as a member of Les Six and as a first-class setter of poetic texts. In addition, LaCombe’s notes and all the texts of the songs are included in the booklet in French, English, and German, as well as information on the RIAS-Kammerchor and photos of the choir and Reuss. Paul Eluard’s surrealist poetry was Poulenc’s gateway to recovering his Catholic spirituality, and this debt is apparent in that the first three works on the recording are settings of texts by Eluard (Sept Chansons contains texts by Apollinaire in addition to Eluard). Furthermore—and luckily—the CD is available widely from retailers. Aficionados will appreciate this the new availability of some Poulenc’s music that is not too frequently recorded. Someone who is not familiar with Poulenc’s music will find this recording to be a delightful introduction.
CUNY – The Graduate Center