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?
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