Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

DVWW-COWAND5
12 Sep 2006

BEETHOVEN: Overtures
BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 4

The later Günter Wand was a remarkable interpreter of Bruckner’s music, as is demonstrated in this live recording from the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Overture “Leonore III”
Anton Bruckner:Symphony no. 4 “Romantic.”

NDR Sinfonieorchester, Günter Wand, conductor.

TDK COWAND05 [DVD]

 

Filmed on 24 June 1990 at the Dom in Lübeck, this concert is a fine example of Wand’s mastery of nineteenth-century repertoire. As flawless as his recordings sound on CD, the video reveals the fact that he conducted from memory, with the empty podium more a prop for the concert venue than something more utile.

Apparently filmed for television, the video brings the higher-definition images from German broadcasts to the DVD. More than the resolution, the sense of a concert is conveyed with the combination of long pans and, more importantly, and lingering shots. The frenetic quality that some directors bring to the concert videos is absent from this recording, and this helps to give it a sense of place. Not just a performance preserved in digital media, this recording conveys the feel of the performance and its venue.

The concert opens with the familiar “Leonore III” Overture by Beethoven, and as well-known as it is, Wand’s sense of drama makes it worth attention. His cueing is, perhaps, as intriguing as the sound it brings. Likewise, his range of gestures fits the breadth of the music and its implicit drama. Wand shapes the sound in this resonant cathedral, something that is welcome in live performances, like those of Helmut Rilling, and others of his generation. Not just automatons beating time, these musicians truly direct the musicians in their charge and create a dynamism that excites the audience.

As much as the “Leonore III” Overture may be seen as a way to warm up the orchestra, it the program is essentially Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, the one called “Romantic.” Dating from 1874, and revised in 1878 and fitted with a new Finale in 1880, the Fourth is one of Bruckner’s better-known works. While Bruckner further emended the score in 1888, Wand used the Haas edition of 1936, which attempts to provide the Originalfassung of the work. Notwithstanding the complicated history of the Fourth Symphony, it may be regarded as the first of his works to embody the stylistic elements associated with the composer’s symphonic works. No longer relying on quotations as a structural device, as he had done in the Third Symphony, Bruckner’s voice is apparent in the Fourth without the need to rely on ideas from other composers to contribute to its substance.

Familiar to audiences because of its frequent inclusion in concert programs, Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony is accessible because of the concise motives that the composer develops throughout the work. The open intervals with which the work begins help to set the tone for a work that is built on fourths and fifths, with the horn calls stemming from them. As predictable as that may be, Bruckner intensifies the rhythmic interest with triplet figures that push three melodic notes against the underlying duple meter. These stylistic traits are associated with Bruckner and they have their origin in this work, which reflects, perhaps, more concision than the composer used in his previous work. As fine a composition as the Third is, the Fourth seems to be the quintessential Bruckner symphony.

In this recording, too, Wand allows Bruckner’s voice to emerge clearly and without affectation. From the first notes of the opening movement, Wand gives free rein to Bruckner’s music, as the horn call gives way to its response by the woodwinds and eventually the full orchestra. The setting in the Lübeck cathedral is an appropriate venue for the timbre, which reverberates warmly in the surrounding acoustics. The attentiveness of the audience is evidence of Wand’s command of the performance, which seems, at times, more like a studio recording than a live concert. Wand plays the orchestra as though he were Bruckner’s organist, with attention to every detail. From the subtle gestures that create intimate sounds to the majestic ones he used to bring out the structural climaxes in the score, Wand interprets the music as if he had composed it himself. The response of the musicians is evidence of the conductor’s presence, as is the attentiveness of the audience, whose faces blur into those of the orchestra in the various panned shots of the video.

The slow movement is no less powerful, and some of the images of performers framed by Gothic arches help to establish the solemn tone of the music. In this spirit, the Wand himself seems to have resisted the spirited facial gestures that he used in the first movement, averting his eyes, as it were, so as to avoid engaging the performers too vociferously. Such is not the case in the Scherzo that follows, which Wand opens with a precise and measured beat that keeps the lively spirit of the piece.

With the Finale, Wand allows the subtle orchestration to emerge clearly, and the unirhythmic passages come through with rare precisions. The control that is apparent in Wand’s conducting by no means restrains the expressiveness of the performance. Without hurrying along the players, Wand maintains a persuasive tempo that reinforces the sonata form of the Finale. Wand’s interpretation of the Finale matches his concept of the opening movement; the work revolves around the outer movements, with the inner ones supporting the overall structure.

This is a fine video that captures a late performance by one of the finest conductors of the twentieth century in exemplary form. While some of the shots from one side of the cathedral might catch sight of film crew on another part, the overall quality is impressive. Moreover, the sound is quite fine, as should be the case with DVDs of concerts like this. This video has much to recommend, as it preserves an outstanding Bruckner performance for future generations to enjoy.

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):