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

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.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Joshua Bell — Voice of the Violin
09 Sep 2006

Joshua Bell’s Good Taste

Sony Records occasionally still sends the odd CD to reviewers hoping they will give it notice.

Joshua Bell — Voice of the Violin

Joshua Bell (Violin); Anna Netrebko (Soprano)

Sony Classical 097779 [CD]

$14.48  Click to buy

When ‘Joshua Bell, Voice of the Violin’ arrived recently (Sony Classical 82796 97779), a little voice inside my head said, ‘Wait! don’t throw it out – see how Bell is sounding these days.’

I followed that advice and am glad I did. This is a bon-bon record, almost elevator music – but not quite. Its salvation is Bell’s musicianship and taste. The fifteen selections for solo violin and small orchestra, in this case the splendid Orchestra of St Luke’s, Michael Stern, conductor, are all familiar vocal repertory, largely operatic, a pleasing selection, actually, including: Werther’s ‘Pourquoi me réveiller?’ (Massenet); ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ (Donizetti); and songs such as Schubert’s ubiquitous ‘Ave Maria’ and Rachmaninoff’s ‘Vocalise,’ plus some popular Spanish material – not exactly a ground breaking offering, fifteen selections in all, each three or four minutes in length. The happy word is that Bell’s performance is no less than gorgeous. He plays with a strong tone, dead-on pitch and only very light vibrato. This is no east-European gypsy; rather, a sterling American musician from Bloomington, Indiana, and a fine violinist. His program is old-fashioned and hackneyed, for sure. But it was meant to boil the pot, not offer musical innovation, and is a companion disc to Bell’s ‘Romance of the Violin,’ more of same issued earlier (Sony SK87894). Bell makes no artful attempts to ‘sell’ the music; he plays it straight and it works.

In the early 20th century, programs of transcriptions and operatic selections for piano or violin were common, and Albert Spaulding, the handsome and accomplished American violinist who became an international celebrity, played such recitals often, as did Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler and many another famed fiddler. Bell makes no apology for his violin transcriptions, in fact is happy to write, “In the end, playing these pieces compelled me to think like a singer – to breathe with the musical line, to articulate each note...and finally, with the help of my 1713 Stradivarius violin, to discover the very human-like voice of the violin.” No argument from me. Bravo!

Here is the ‘however’: The program ends with Richard Strauss’s heavenly song ‘Morgen’ (Tomorrow), played by Bell and the St. Luke’s, and sung by the noted soprano Anna Netrebko. A disarmingly simple-sounding series of ascending chords wafts the poem of the Scottish-German John Henry Mackay to memorable heights of quiet reflective sentiment. Thus the poem:

Tomorrow

And tomorrow the sun will shine again,
and on the path where I will go,
it will unite us, the happy ones, again,
amidst this sun-breathing earth...

And on the shore, the broad, blue swells,
we will climb down, silently and slowly,
speechless we will gaze into one another’s eyes,
and the silence of bliss will drop upon us...

[Sony gives the German and this English text, but no translation is credited.]

Strauss sets these sweet words so succinctly, with such restraint but with warm color and quiet longing. It’s a haunting song, that thrives in Bell’s violin. So, one wonders why Netrebko was hauled in to participate in this elegant closing number? If a singer were really needed (she was not, given the quality of Bell’s work), why an operatic prima donna who is only concerned with voice and makes no audible effort to enunciate the German text clearly or color it with emotion? Bell’s program survives but Strauss’s wunderbar song does not, and I missed a real lieder singer in the moment. Perhaps La Netrebko’s name will help sell the disc to the unsuspecting, though she is not featured on the cover or title pages. Otherwise, ‘Voice of the Violin’ offers good notes, wonderful recorded sound and delightful violin performances. This is a fine Mother’s Day gift. [Sorry, Joshua!]

© 2006 J. A. Van Sant, Santa Fe.

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):