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 Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Handel: An Ode for St Cecilia's Day
22 Oct 2006

HANDEL: An Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day

“Cecilia, cast a glance upon the land of Britain, and you will see that in sonorous strains it renews on this day the pleasing memory of your name so dear. . . .”

G.F. Handel: An Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day. Cecilia, volgi un sguardo

Carolyn Sampson, soprano; James Gilchrist, tenor; Choir of the King’s Consort; The King’s Consort; Robert King, Director.

Hyperion SACDA67463 [CD]

$21.98  Click to buy

These opening words from Handel’s cantata, “Cecilia, volgi un sguardo,” point to a special relationship between England and the patron saint of music, and never was that more the case than in the late seventeenth century when the feast day (November 22) elicited annual festivals, marked by grand-scale church music, odes, and sermons on musical themes. Purcell’s contributions set the bar high with odes for the 1683 and 1692 festivals and a Te Deum-Jubilate pair for 1694. Handel’s entry into the London musical scene post-dates the annual festivals, but the Cecilian tradition, so amply solidified by Purcell, is one that Handel furthers with great flair in his own day, and he does so with unconstrained Englishness. Chief among his contributions are settings of two works by John Dryden, “Alexander’s Feast” and “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day,” the latter of which is splendidly recorded here by Robert King and the King’s Consort.

The text for “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day” is in part a traditional trope on the power of music, especially the particular powers of individual instruments. Part of the joy is clearly the unfolding of movements featuring “the trumpet’s loud clangor,” “the soft complaining flute,” passionate violins, and the “sacred organ.” And the players of the King’s Consort bring the lauded characteristics to life with unflagging skill. However, the richest of the instrumental obbligati is ironically not from one of the instruments named in the text; in the aria “What passion cannot Music raise and quell” the solo cello line is a jewel, played here by Jonathan Cohen with a memorable expressiveness and finely sculpted dynamic shading.

In addition to the poetic catalogue of instrumental attributes, the text is framed by Dryden’s evocation of music at the creation of the world and, ultimately, at the end of the world, as well—“the dead shall live, the living die, and Music shall untune the sky.” The opening description of creation is powerfully evocative, pointing ahead, it seems, to Haydn’s famous representation of Chaos in “The Creation.” It is in these movements, as well, that the eighteenth-century propensity for pictorialism is fully engaged.

A brilliant work, it receives a brilliant rendition. In addition to the excellent instrumental forces and the tightly focused choir, “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day,” glories in the singing of soprano Carolyn Sampson and tenor James Gilchrist. Gilchrist sings with a wonderfully free tone, handling the florid passage work with flair and the intimate sections with an engaged expressive manner. Sampson is at her best in the Ode where she sings with noble simplicity (“But oh! What art can teach”) and in reflective moods. For example, her flexibility of sound allows her, along with flautist Lynda Sayce, to shape a tonal partnership of unusual eloquence and closeness in “The soft complaining flute.”

Both Gilchrist and Sampson have much to keep them busy in the cantata “Cecilia, volgi un sguardo,” originally performed as an interlude between the acts of “Alexander’s Feast.” The opening tenor aria, “La Virtute è un vero nume,” is extremely florid and Gilchrist meets the challenges with masterful command. Sampson’s “Sei cara, sei bella,” is a challenging aria, not least for its quick change of gestures and affections. Where it is florid, Sampson is confident and at ease; where it is rapturous, she is compellingly luxuriant, as in the suspension-rich, middle section of the aria. Through it all her sound is radiant, her expression, responsive, and her performance never less than memorable.

Steven Plank
Oberlin College

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):