Recently in Recordings
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
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.
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
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.
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’.
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.
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.