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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.
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.
26 Oct 2006
Hans Hotter & Birgit Nilsson sing Wagner & Schubert
Two of the most famous Wagner interpreters of the twentieth century, Hans Hotter and Birgit Nilsson, are always worth hearing in their studio recordings, and the live recordings capture the spontaneity of an actual performance with such accomplished singers.
This CD includes restored
recordings of selected performances from London in 1955 for the Wagner
performances, with the Schubert Lieder from London in 1949. A bonus track
contains an excerpt of Hotter singing the Holländer's entrance aria "Die Frist
ist um" from a concert of the Concertgebouw from 1936 and conducted by Bruno
Walter. The 1955 performances are with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by
Leopold Ludwig, and the Schubert selections are accompanied by Gerald Moore.
The extended scene from the second act of Der Fliegende
Holländer is remarkable for its clarity of sound and fine precision. The
lack of audience sounds suggests the logistics of a radio broadcast, but the
recording has the ambiance of the concert hall. Both Hotter and Nilsson are
prominent sonically, and the intensity of their ensemble near the end of this
passionate duet conveys a sense of physical proximity that assures the
audience of finely wrought execution. Left as a single long band
(approximately fifteen minutes long), the excerpt is memorable for its
With the excerpt from the concluding scene of Die
Walküre, the sound is equally clean and resonant, with both Nilsson and
Hotter sounding as if they were standing in front of the orchestra. Again, the
recording connotes the isolation of a radio broadcast, since the sound is
devoid of ambient noises. Nilsson opens the scene with the fresh and resonant
sound for which she was known, and her precision is matched by Hotter's deeply
etched bass sounds in his famous interpretation of Wotan. Recorded just two
years after Clemens Kraus's Bayreuth Ring cycle with Hotter in the role, the
1955 recording affords a better sound which may be the result of the
restoration implicitly made for this Archipel release. Moreover, the
commanding sound of Hotter and the ringing tone of Nilsson are exciting in a
performance that predates their famous recording of the same work conducted by
Sir Georg Solti in his famous studio recording of Wagner's Ring der
Nibelungen (on Decca/London). Like a full-length opera recording, this
1955 performance is banded into separable units, thus making it possible to
return easily various memorable sections easily. Ludwig Leopold's approach to
Wagner may be seen to differ from Solti's for its sparer treatment of the
orchestra so as to allow the vocal lines to predominate. The perspective that
comes with such a textural emphasis may seem dated, especially when the sonics
Solti demanded a decade later set a different standard for Wagner recordings
and is not far removed from the way that Bruno Walter treated Der
fliegende Holländer in the bonus track of "Die Frist ist um" from 1936.
In the latter it is possible hear Hotter from almost two decades earlier in
his career. In that band Hotter's resilient bass sound is clear, with this
diction punctuating the finely placed line. More than a curiosity, this band
offers a point of reference that demonstrates the quality of Hotter's
musicianship almost twenty years before audiences almost relied on him for
As rich a selection of Wagner performances that are on this CD, the
producer included four Lieder, presumably from a longer recital that Hotter
gave with Gerald Moore in 1949. The microphone may be a little close, as the
sound is surprisingly loud in comparison to what precedes it on the CD. Yet
these tracks offer a chance to hear the famous bass singing Lieder with the
idiomatic presentation one would expect of such an accomplished musician. The
selections include four well-known Lieder: "An die Musik," "Meeresstille," "Am
Bach im Frühling, and "Im Frühling," all performed with aplomb, as would be
expected of performances accompanied by Gerald Moore.
This selection of performances by Hans Hotter is an excellent to become
reacquainted with the work of this legendary baritone, or, for those
unfamiliar with his voice, it can serve as an introduction. Nilsson's
performances are equally strong, and her work with Hotter conveys to modern
audiences the vibrancy that they brought to their Wagner performances. As to
the recording itself, the reconstructed sound is remarkably clear and conveys
the sonic images without introducing any distractions. Live performances like
those preserved on this CD are always of interest, and the quality of those
chosen for this recording makes it all the more notable.
James L. Zychowicz