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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.
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.
22 Sep 2006
MONTEVERDI: Il Sesto Libro de Madrigali
It is somewhat ironic that until recent years Italy has generally been slow to take a leading role in the historical performance movement: ironic in that historically Italy both dominates and defines the early baroque style and ironic in that that style enshrines the primacy of text— the Italian text.
One might have suspected that on grounds of national pride, to say nothing of the advantage of native fluency with the language, Italians would have been in the forefront of the “early music revival,” where early baroque repertory has been foundational. Yet, for whatever reason—the strength of the modern opera tradition, perhaps—Italy’s robust participation in the world of historical performance has developed later than others. However, the brilliant work of Concerto Italiano, under the direction of Rinaldo Alessandrini, amply and welcomingly shows how robust! With a large discography that includes eleven recordings of the works of Monteverdi already, this present recording of pieces from the Sixth Book of Madrigals is, like its predecessors, one that overwhelms with the naturalness of the performing idiom and the sensitivity of the performers.
Monteverdi’s Sixth Book of Madrigals was published in 1614, shortly after his appointment as maestro di capella at the Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice, but the madrigals are in the main (if not totally) from Mantua, and poignantly so. Several events lend a tragic hue to Monteverdi’s later years at the Gonzaga court. In September, 1607 he suffered the loss of his wife, the singer Claudia Cattaneo, and in the next year he faced the death of the young singer Caterina Martinelli. In 1603 Martinelli had come to Mantua as a young teen, and had lived in Monteverdi’s house for several years, perhaps studying with Claudia. She died suddenly of small pox in 1608 amid preparations for the opera, Arianna, in which she was to have sung the title role.
Almost inescapably then, we tend to interpret the lamentative bent of Book Six autobiographically. Much of the volume is devoted to two large-scale works, an ensemble arrangement of the famous Lamento d’Arianna, and a Sestina (“Lagrime d”Amante al Sepolcro dell’Amata”). The first is an arrangement of the only music that survives from “Martinelli’s” opera, and the latter is a memorial work for her, requested by the Duke. In the wake of Monteverdi’s deep personal losses, these works (and others in the volume) compel us to find in them echoes of the composer’s grief.
The ensemble version of Arianna’s lament is an interesting trope of the surviving monodic version. In both forms, Arianna’s abandonment by Theseus becomes the trigger for affective music of the highest order, be it born of her despair, anger, love, or inner ambivalence. In the ensemble arrangement, however, because of the independence of the individual lines, Monteverdi’s dissonances have stronger substance than that of a single voice against the basso continuo, and this gives striking weight to a work already heavy laden. In the monodic version, however, we not only hear the vocal line as the character “Arianna,”—and thus hear things dramatically—but the solo line can claim a performance flexibility that well serves the emotional contours of the text. Concerto Italiano’s ensemble remarkably manages to sing the lament as a group with all the power, expression, and flexibility of a soloist. In fact, in hearing the ensemble, one has no doubt but that each of the singers would render the solo version with great command, and they clearly bring this understanding to a cohesive ensemble performance, wonderfully exemplified in the explosively angry sections of the fourth stanza.
Lamento d’Arianna, of course, echoes the opera. Some of the madrigals here well show the potential closeness of the madrigal and the stage, as well. “Misero Alceo,” “Batto, qui pianse Ergasto,” and :Presso un fiume tranquillo” all present scenes where the ensemble offers a narrative frame while solo or duo textures render dialogue, sometimes at great length. The degree to which the madrigal is becoming soloistic shows its continuing response to an increasingly operatic world, as does the adoption of dramatic structures. And tellingly, this development may seem to bring Monteverdi’s output into a closer unity.
It is an output that Concerto Italiano performs with stunning fluency and dramatic flair. Their sound is forward, flexible and lithe, their skill unflaggingly impressive, and their results most sensitive, dynamic and memorable.