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

Lalo: Complete Songs

Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

Félicien David: Herculanum

It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.

A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

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.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Antonio Vivaldi: <em>Sacred Music 2.</em>
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.”

Antonio Vivaldi: Sacred Music 2.
Laudate pueri Dominum, RV 600; Stabat Mater, RV 621; Canta in prato, ride in monte, RV 623; Clarae stellae, scintillate, RV 625.

Tracy Smith Bessette, soprano; Marion Newman, contralto; Aradia Ensemble; Kevin Mallon, Director.

Naxos 8.557852 [CD]

$8.98  Click to buy

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.

Steven Plank
Oberlin College

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):