Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Wojciech Kilar: Bogurodzica; Piano Concerto; Hoary Fog; Koscielec 1909
08 Oct 2006

KILAR: Piano Concerto

Among the exciting new releases in Naxos’s series of 21st Century Classics is a compilation of four works by Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932), which include two symphonic compositions and two vocal pieces.

Wojciech Kilar: Bogurodzica; Piano Concerto; Hoary Fog; Koscielec 1909

Waldemar Malicki; Wieslaw Ochman; Henryk Wojnarowski, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic Choir, Antoni Wit (cond.)

Naxos 8.557813 [CD]

$8.99  Click to buy

Through his accessible style, Kilar has become one of Poland’s best-known composers, and with a work like Bogurodzica (Mother of God), the first of the pieces collected in Tryptyk (1997). Removed from Kilar’s Tryptyk, Bogurodzica remains a strong work that conveys complex meanings through its highly textured structure. The martial overtones suggested by the percussion that frame the pieces are not out of place in a work that is also a paean to the Blessed Virgin. Composed before the fall of the Eastern bloc, the pained religiosity is nonetheless fervent in this piece that remains a powerful work for chorus and orchestra.

Yet the central work on this CD is Kilar’s Piano Concerto (1997), a relatively recent work in which the composer explores some aspects of minimalism to fine effect. The first movement (Andante con moto) has repetitive character establishes the timbre of the piece as a structural element, and like some of Kilar’s other music, the subtle textures are effective in serving as a prelude to the central movement (Corale). The various allusions in the second movement blur within a structure that essentially a set of variations that culminate in an intricate section for solo piano. Improvisatory in character, the passage reflects a change of tone in the movement that involves more interaction between the soloist and the orchestra. The tutti sonorities with which the movement ends are a springboard for the final movement (Toccata), which offers a contrasting character to what preceded it. Full or energy and rhythmic interest, this is a wonderfully exciting movement that reveals an innovative approach to composing a piano concerto at the end of the twentieth century. In some ways it resembles the tack that John Adams took in his Grand Pianola Music, which is essentially a Konzertstück – concertpiece – albeit in Adams’ work for two pianos and orchestra. At the same time, the more intricate passages in the final movement of Kilar’s Concerto suggest some aspects of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G minor. Yet the style of the 1997 work is wholly that of Kilar, who has reshaped the structure of the piano concerto in this fine new work.

The two other pieces included in this recording are also of interest. Siwa Mgla (Gray Mist) is a work for baritone and orchestra that is reminiscent of Sibelius’s tone poem Luonnatar. The evocative sonorities with which the piece begins set the tone for the entrance of the solo voice. Unlike some of Kilar’s other vocal music, this is a secular work that is nonetheless meditative. While some of the passages are atmospheric, the dramatic use of brass and percussion serve as a foil for the baritone, whose lines respond to the orchestral accompaniment. Just as Kilar can evoke the sound worlds of other composers in some of this works, the repeated minor thirds which intersect, at times, with pentatonic sonorities, convey the kind of Orientalism that Mahler used in Der Abschied, the final movement of his symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde. Composed in 1979, this work reflects another aspect of Kilar’s oeuvre as he evolved his style.

In fact, the finale work, Kościelec 1909 is a symphonic poem that Kilar completed in 1976. With its thick textures and complex sonorities, Kościelec 1909 evokes the precipitous mountain in the Tatrian range, with the year 1909 being significant for the date the promising Polish composer of the fin-de-siécle, Mieczysław Karłowicz died in a skiing accident in that area. Suggestive more than narrative, this piece serves as tribute to the earlier composer, whose tone poems established a niveau for composers of his generation, like Karol Szymanowski. Such tribute to Karłowicz is indeed touching, and this is an effective recording of a rarely heard work.

Antoni Wit is a fine interpreter of Kilar’s music, and the live performances preserved on this recording are noteworthy for various reasons. Wit’s command of the orchestral forces is quite effective, and he brings a convincing style to these fine works of a contemporary composer. This is an excellent selection of Kilar’s music, which merits further attention.

James L. Zychowicz

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):