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

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Stéphanie D’Oustrac: Sirènes

After D’Oustrac’s striking success as Cassandre in Berlioz Les Troyens, this will reach audiences less familiar with her core repertoire in the baroque and grand opéra. Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and La mort d’Ophélie, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and the Lieder of Franz Liszt are very well known, but the finesse of D’Oustrac’s timbre lends a lucid gloss which makes them feel fresh and pure.

Luminous Mahler Symphony no.3: François-Xavier Roth, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.3 with François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, now at last on CD, released by Harmonia Mundi, after the highly acclaimed live performance streamed a few months ago.

A First-Ever Recording: Benjamin Godard’s 1890 Opera on Dante and Beatrice

The composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is today largely unknown to most music lovers. Specialist collectors, though, have been enjoying his songs (described as “imaginative and delightful” by Robert Moore in American Record Guide), his Concerto Romantique for violin (either in its entirety or just the dancelike Canzonetta, which David Oistrakh recorded winningly decades ago), and some substantial chamber and orchestral works that have received first recordings in recent years.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

Le Bal des Animaux : Works by Chabrier, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie et al.

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Songs of Amy Beach
20 Nov 2006

Songs of Amy Beach

I can remember a time when Amy Beach was primarily known as a favorite among performers (largely female) whose mission was to present the work of neglected women composers.

Songs of Amy Beach

Patrick Mason, baritone, Joanne Polk, piano

Bridge 9182 [CD]

$17.98  Click to buy

With the revival of interest in American Romantic music, Beach has begun to appear on more recital and concert programs. Now, this recital disc devoted entirely to Amy Beach’s songs, performed by baritone Patrick Mason and pianist Joanne Polk, should bring Beach squarely into the mainstream of serious American art song composers. It is refreshing to hear her songs in a man’s voice, and a special treat to hear the accompaniments, written by a composer who began life as a child piano prodigy and who clearly has a sensitivity for the instrument, performed by an artist who has already made a name for herself recording Beach’s complete piano works for the Arabesque label.

The program is presented chronologically, with an ear for contrast in mood, so that the 56-minute program gives a satisfying sense of the largely self-taught composer’s range and development. While her songs may not have broken much new ground musically, she was very good at what she did, and these songs are quite interesting and satisfying to listen to. Through Patrick Mason’s extensive notes, for which he acknowledges the help of Adrienne Fried Block, Beach’s biographer, we get a real sense of the composer as a person, and of her relationship with her husband, whose poetry she sometimes set and to whom each year, on his birthday, she dedicated a song, which he would sing as she accompanied him.

Block’s biography of Beach is entitled Passionate Victorian, which describes the songs on this disk quite well. The texts are for the most part contemporary with Beach herself, or from a generation earlier, so the poetic diction of some of the earlier songs contains some Victorianisms that may sound dated to us today. But the poems’ resonance with Beach’s passionate nature shows up clearly in the musical treatment she gives them. Mason points out in his notes on “The Summer Wind” (1891), “the sensuality of Amy Beach’s music…the eroticizing of Nature in poetry encourages unashamed expression of sexual feelings not otherwise appropriate at the time (for a woman at any rate). Amy seems liberated by these texts to reveal her true self.”

Mason’s straightforward, authentic delivery of these texts helps keep a song like “Baby” from slipping into simple sentimentality, instead profoundly expressing a parent’s wonder at the miracle of a newborn child. The singer’s diction is for the most part excellent, and I found it easy to follow most of this all-English-language program without having to consult the texts. My one regret is that, perhaps in an effort to achieve this clarity, Mason covers his higher notes more than I would like, making a less resonant sound at the tops of the soaring phrases than the music deserves. In the middle and lower range, however, his voice is quite beautiful (I particularly enjoyed the long held word “past” in his low range in the opening song, “Twilight”).

Listeners interested in exploring Amy Beach’s songs have a choice between this disc and another all-Beach collection on the budget Naxos label by mezzo-soprano Katherine Kelton and pianist Catherine Bringerud. Naxos’s disc is about half the price of this one and contains about twenty more minutes of music (36 songs, compared with 22 on this Bridge release). While there is some overlap between the two programs, many of the songs on each disc are not duplicated on the other, so the two may be considered supplemental rather than direct rivals. If I had to choose between the two, I would probably choose the Naxos disc if my interest were largely in getting intelligent, professional performances of the most songs, including songs in French and German, for a very reasonable price. On the other hand, while Katherine Kelton is an expert on Beach’s songs, the Naxos budget constraints don’t allow for the booklet to contain notes that are anywhere near as extensive as Mason’s. Thus, the Bridge disc enables us to feel that we’ve really gotten to know the woman whose photograph at age sixteen graces its cover. Furthermore, while Catherine Bringerud is comfortable in the Beach accompaniments, Joanne Polk’s extensive experience with her solo music gives the highly important piano parts of these songs a level of detail and excitement that helps to make the performances on Bridge more memorable and the overall program more interesting to listen to as a complete program.

Barbara Miller

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):