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

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

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.

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):