Recently in Recordings
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
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Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
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Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
Since his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1971, conductor James Levine has come to represent the house’s commitment to artistic excellence — reliable, professional, and immaculately presented.
02 Oct 2006
The Psalms of David
The daily Anglican liturgies of Morning and Evening Prayer feature the recitation of the complete Psalter (apportioned in a monthly cycle), and in cathedrals and collegiate chapels, the chanting of the psalms has been cultivated to a degree of great refinement and beauty.
The mainstay repertory for the psalms is the so-called “Anglican chant,” short, repeating, harmonic formulas that grew out of harmonized plainsong in the seventeenth century.
This present recording is a compilation of three LPs from the late 1960s and 1970s recorded by the famed Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, then, as now, among the most celebrated of Anglican choirs. In the 1960s, if the choir was celebrated, so too was its legendary Master, Sir David Willcocks, who brought their sound and interpretative subtlety to the level of a “golden age.” And with the psalms, no less than with anthem literature, his results were finely detailed, interpretatively rich renditions. So much so that the quip that the “Psalms of David” seemed equally apt for Biblical King and Cambridge Organist alike never seemed too great a stretch to the imagination! Accordingly, here is a generous helping of Anglican chant led by one of its greatest practitioners and his successor, Sir Philip Ledger.
There is much to admire. The performances aim at a variety that keeps the repetitive forms dynamic and alive to the images of the text without overwhelming the devotional priorities of liturgical recitation. To this end, discreet organ descants, frequent changes of registration, alternations of men and boys and unison and harmony are all applied with care. The declamatory naturalness of the chanting is particularly refined, bearing the stamp not only of close rehearsal, but especially of the daily singing of the repertory at evensong.
The chants are drawn in the main from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including chants composed by well-known composers (Stanford, Crotch, and Parry, for instance) and those whose names are known mostly to church musicians (Walmisley, Bairstow, and Barnby, for example). Forays into more modern chants are few. The lengths of the psalms vary considerably, and the heroic length of Ps. 78—seventy-three verses over fifteen minutes—is an impressive feat of endurance by any calculation.
All this said, I suspect the recording will have limited appeal. Anglophilic enthusiasts wishing to revel in the characteristic sounds of a beloved liturgical repertory will embrace these re-issues with unflagging delight. On the other hand, the more general listener may find in the recordings a beautiful curiosity of surprising quantity, but a quantity that in the end may outdistance his interest.