Recently in Recordings
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.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
25 Sep 2006
POULENC: Gloria and Stabat Mater
In the 1930s, Poulenc’s turn to writing sacred choral music such as the Litanies à la vierge noire and the Mass in G was closely linked to his new embrace of Roman Catholicism following the death of a close friend, the composer Pierre-Octave Ferroud.
This turn is echoed in the 1950s with both his Stabat Mater (1950) and his Gloria (1959), two works re-issued here in recordings from 1985 and 1989, performed by the French National Orchestra and the Choir of Radio France with the American soprano, Barbara Hendricks, conducted by Georges Prêtre.
Poulenc’s Gloria is often brilliantly exuberant, and this quality finds the forces at their best. The choir and orchestra alike shimmer and sparkle with flair, and this exuberance goes a long way towards securing the success of the performance. It is also quite striking how fluent the performers’ command of the idiom is. If Poulenc winks his eye, it is clear that the performers have no doubt about what the gesture means, and they embrace it with an engaging naturalness.
Not all of the Gloria is extroversion. The “Domine Deus” section has a memorable moodiness about it with haunting melodic contours; contours that soloist Barbara Hendricks negotiates with expressive ease. In this section, as well, the soprano is frequently given a simple, chant-like refrain, which she renders with much poise and control. Yet overall, I suspect it is the radiance of her sound that proves most memorable. Here in the Gloria, Prêtre (or is it the audio engineer?) lets the radiance play against the background sound of choir and orchestra, and keeps it in interesting timbral relief.
The Stabat Mater is a longer work and an emotionally more complex one, treating the inner turmoil of Mary at the Crucifixion and devotional responses to that. Over the length of the work, Poulenc’s score presents strong contrasts; contrasts that give it a dramatic edge—sometimes, even a narrative sense. Regrettably EMI has not included text or translation, thus veiling the score’s more specific gestures.
The choral performance in Stabat Mater is less convincing than in the Gloria. Acoustically the choir seems often in the background, even when their material is primary. Additionally, much of the singing here is soft—given the text, that is unsurprising—but the soft seems to be more “undersung” than “less loud”; it has a wispiness about it that makes you fear it may soon sag. It doesn’t, but the fear remains.
In an age of recyclables, we can be grateful that EMI has given these performances a second life. The Gloria is wonderfully idiomatic and engaging, with soprano solos of distinctive beauty.