Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue" . Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Rock and Daniel Harding

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 3
20 Nov 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 3

Originally recorded in Carnegie Hall on 15 April 1956, Dimitri Mitropoulos’s performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony dates from a time when this particular score was rarely heard in concert.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 3

New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Dimitri Mitropoulos (cond.)

Archipel ARPCD 0344 [CD]

$11.98  Click to buy

One of the earliest recordings of this work, it is known in the discography of Mahler’s music through its previous release on the Fonit Cetra label and sometimes disparaged when compared to Mitropoulos’s live performance of the same work with the WDR Symphony Orchestra (Cologne).

While Mahler purists may prefer the conductor’s later recording, this one from 1956 is not without interest. This performance involved cuts, with the opening movement and Finale relatively shorter than customarily taken. Yet this recording documents one of those rare occasions when Mahler’s Third Symphony was performed in the years before the so-called Mahler revival assigned to the early 1960s. If tempos are somewhat out of character when compared to the understanding of the work five decades later, it is evidence of a lack of familiarity with the score and the taste of the particular conductor in shaping a work. In truth, the performing tradition for this Symphony was not as rich as that of other music by Mahler, which were heard more often in those days. From this perspective the revival of interest in Mahler’s work was not a wholesale discovery of his music, but in its full scope, so that performances of a monumental score like that of the Third Symphony become more common and audiences could be more discriminating when dealing with a conductor’s interpretation.

The matter of cuts, though, bears understanding in the spirit of the time that Mitropoulos performed the work. The performing tradition for Mahler’s music was not yet strong enough then for precedents to invoke. This was also the time when Mahler’s name brought along associations with Bruckner, as found in Redlich’s dual biography of the two composers, and Dika Newlin’s groundbreaking study entitled Bruckner, Mahler, Schoenberg. If Mahler was known alongside Bruckner, it is no wonder that a conductor like Mitropoulos would take cuts, since Bruckner’s music was known in editions that involved cuts and other manipulations of his scores. With the critical edition to begin only at the end of the 1950s and continue through the 1980s in presenting scores sanctioned by the Internationale Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft, in 1956 Mahler’s scores did not yet have the iconic status that would come with the establishment of a Gesamtausgabe. Without such a structure for establishing the shape of Mahler’s works in print, it does not seem unusual for conductors to consider cuts, especially when his style is tied to that of Bruckner, for whom cuts were part of the performing tradition for his music.

Beyond the substantial issues connected to cuts. Mitroupolos’s interpretation, it has merits in the intensity the conductor brought to this performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony. Quick tempos aside, Mitropoulos has captured the spirit of the work, albeit without the details entirely in place – sometimes without the continuity of the score as the composer intended it. While the Orchestral performs well enough, some passages also reflect a lack of familiarity with the score, as occurs with the trombone solo in the first movement. Valiant an effort, it is not the kind of approach someone like Jay Friedman would take decades later in the various performances by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or even those in the following decade, when Leonard Bernstein recorded his first cycle of Mahler’s symphonies.

With the virtuosic tempos of the first movement bringing it to an enthusiastic conclusion, the second movement has a similar urgency to it that gives it a less elegiac character than modern audiences may expect. The full orchestral sound is also a departure from the more subdued tone that Riccardo Chailly would give it. In Mitropoulos’s hands, the second theme has a more gypsy-like sound that offers stark contrast when the principal theme returns. The string textures are, perhaps, less rich than possible with slower tempos, and orchestral effects like portamento are not evident in this interpretation, which is also a product of its time, when twentieth-century modernism eroded some nineteenth-century conventions, like the overtly romantic slides that would have seemed archaic at the time of this performance.

The third movement is also brisk, but not without interest. The brass are particularly fine in this recording, and the trumpet – not Flügelhorn – for the Posthorn solo in this movement offers a clean reading of the passage. This kind of substitution changes the character of Mahler’s sound enough to call attention to the performance, but another performance choice that would not be tolerated today is the use of a translation of Mahler’s texts for the vocal movements. The also Beatrice Krebs offers a clearly enunciated reading that gives the text in English, rather than the preferred German. Yet is it entirely wrong to do this? Didn’t Mahler confide to Otto Klemperer that he did not might if conductors of future generations adapted his scores? After all, a performance like this one by Mitropoulos brought the then-unfamiliar score to a broader audience, and the understanding is aided by a translation that does not alter drastically the rhythms of the vocal line in the fourth movement (“O Mensch, gib acht”) and the following choral movement, “Es sungen drei Engel.” The choral forces are, perhaps, less clear than the solo work by Krebs, but the audience in Carnegie did not need to bury its head in the program to read the text when they could hear music with heads raised up. This is by no means a suggestion that Mahler performances return to rendering the works in translation, but this recording documents its time, when such a choice was permissible for the few concerts that would include a work like this.

With the Finale, albeit cut, Mitropoulos still evokes the majesty that is part of the movement, particularly the concluding gestures that bring the work to its climax. Again, the tempos may be somewhat quicker than today’s audience expect, but he achieves a clearly effective result in the final bars, with the relentless timpani and brass reinforcing the solid harmonic movement that Mahler used to create a fitting conclusion to the work. Even though the applause seemed to have been truncated, the audience responded enthusiastically that is still part of this remastered CD issue of an historic performance by one of the outstanding conductors of the twentieth century. This recording may not be the only one someone may want for their collections, but it remains significant for what it reveals about the performing tradition of this work and the legacy found in the discography that includes this release.

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):