Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
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.