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).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
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.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
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.
10 Nov 2006
VIVALDI: Sacred Music 2
A recording of the complete sacred music of Antonio Vivaldi is a welcome prospect, not least because it offers an opportunity to go beyond the fame and familiarity of Vivaldi’s concertos and the ubiquitous “Gloria.”
And with the
second volume in this complete series from Naxos, the Canadian Aradia Ensemble
under the direction of Kevin Mallon, with soprano Tracy Smith Bessette and
contralto Marion Newman present a cohesive program of solo works.
Some of the music is sublime: the opening stanza of the Stabat Mater,
for instance, with its expressive use of chromaticism, augmented-sixth
harmony, and sumptious sequences is memorable by any standards. Other works,
by contrast, fail the memorability test--the “Alleluia” to “Canta in prato,,”
for instance, never rises above the pedestrian--but in a recording of the
complete sacred works, the mighty must be taken along with the meek.
The performances, like the music itself, are also uneven. Both soloists
execute Vivaldi’s florid writing—writing that Denis Arnold long ago aptly
likened to Vivaldi’s violinistic passage work—with confidence, although the
vibrancy and fullness of their tones makes it seem like hard work. Smith
Bessette’s gentler passages, like the “Sit nomen” from “Laudate pueri” are
more successful, for here she can bring her attractive warmth of sound to the
fore. Elsewhere the extent of her vibrato creates stylistic issues,
particularly where the vibrato on weak syllables in a “strong-weak” pattern
subverts the rhythmic contour, as in the “Excelsus super” in “Laudate pueri.”
Newman’s tone is beautifully rich. However, the richness occasionally detracts
from the contours of Vivaldi’s sinewy lines, as in the opening of “Stabat
Mater.” For many, I suspect, the touchstone performance of the “Stabat Mater”
remains James Bowman’s with Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient
Musick (L’Oiseau-Lyre 414 329 2), a performance difficult to rival in terms of
sheer sonic beauty. In referencing the earlier recording an important contrast
emerges: that between female alto and male countertenor. Generalizations are
both difficult and unwise—falsettists and “contraltos” come in all sizes and
shapes and make a wide variety of sounds. In this particular case, however,
the contrast is between a rich female timbre, sometimes in an awkwardly low
register, and a highly focused, lean, vowel-rich falsetto sound. The clarity
of the line and its contours seem advantageously served by the latter.
The Aradia Ensemble is an orchestra that plays with a fine sense of historical
style. However, too often here one seems to want more . . . more
rhythmic exhilaration in those passages of typical Vivaldi drive, and more
extravagant tone in sensuous passages. In the final reckoning this is a
recording perhaps more welcome for presenting the repertory than for the
actual renditions themselves. The performances are competent and more,
certainly, but rarely are they distinctively compelling.