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Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity.
Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.
Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a
record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation.
Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and
Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma.
Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.
13 Dec 2006
LOEWE: Lieder and Balladen
Of the nineteenth-century composers of music for solo voice, Carl Loewe (1796-1869) is one of the most voluminous, with his songs, with his works in this genre filling seventeen volumes in the uniform edition.
Popular in his lifetime, Loewe’s music has since failed to remain in the repertoire in the twentieth century except, perhaps, for his setting of “Erlkönig” that has coexisted for years with that of Franz Schubert. Loewe’s name appears at times in lists of practitioners of Lieder, and the music itself merits attention for the qualities it possesses, as well as the facility of the composer in extending the idiom as a means of expression for a variety of texts.
Such variety may be found in the current selection of Lieder, which include settings from a variety of sources. Of the twenty pieces found on this recording, most texts are by poets who have been long since forgotten, but whose lyrics were enough to inspire Loewe to use them in his songs. The texts also include translation from Greek (with the odes “An die Grille,” “An die Leier,” and “Auf sich selbst [two settings]), as well as modern versions of Middle-High German in ‘Der Treuergebene.” Loewe also found inspiration in contemporary verse, as with his setting of Goethe in “Mahomets Gesang” and also Friedrich Rückert in “Jünglings Gebet.” Moreover, the songs in this collection date from various times in Loewe’s career, and seem, at times, connected more to thematic ideas, than the groupings in which the composer published the songs. At the same time, Loewe set such esteemed poets as Goethe alongside figures that are now all but forgotten, like Dilia Helena or Ignaz Julius Lasker, and he made did not distinguish between the sources of his poetry when he set it. Songs with texts by Lord Byron do not sound stylistically different than settings of less well-known figures. In fact, it is this kind of egalitarianism that sets Loewe apart from some of his contemporaries.
Many of Loewe’s settings are ballads, and in conveying the narrative found in multiple stanzas of the poems that inspired him, he varied the strophic presentation by manipulating the accompaniment. While some of the shorter songs are less challenging, it required greater effort for him to compose the extended narrative of “Johann van Nepomuk,” a piece that requires over ten minutes to perform, as if it were a scena of an opera or the kind of extended song more often associated with Gustav Mahler or Richard Strauss later in the century. Such is the case with “Mahomets Gesang,” another more challenging piece for performers to sustain the mood. Despite this kind of consideration, Loewe did not imbue the music with inflections to evoke the Oriental atmosphere suggested by Goethe’s text in this poem, or anything overtly related to the Bohemian milieu of Nepomuk to cause performers to underscore the text with meanings that music can encapsulate. With translations from Classical literature, as in the odes “An Aphrodite” (Sapho) and “An die Grille” (attributed to Anacreon), Loewe does not adopt a forced solemnity with sustained pitches, but allows the joyful spirit of the verses to emerge in the appropriately energetic rhythms. In these pieces and elsewhere, Loewe’s style brings all the music to his early Romantic idiom, thus making his own compositional idiom the vehicle for approaching some quite intriguing texts.
Yet most of the songs are more typical of nineteenth-century Lieder, and the settings are quite competent. Moreover, the tenor Robert Wörle and pianist Cord Garben are evidently familiar with the music, as evidenced in their solid execution. Wörle’s voice is suited to the sometimes high tessitura of several of the songs, and delivers the works with ease. Garben likewise displays a polished flair with the accompaniment, with the solo passages emerging with clarity in performances that are well recorded and nicely balanced.
Even so, the consistent tenor sound of Wörle suggests the resilience of an experienced performer. The songs are suited to his voice, with a pleasant sound at the upper reaches of his instrument. Wörle’s legato is appropriate to the style of the music, as found in the melismas Loewe used in the first of his settings of “Auf sich selbst.” He renders these pieces ardently and with a familiarity that suggests a solid study of both the music and text of Loewe’s Lieder.
Those who might be familiar with Loewe’s music through his setting of “Erlkönig” or have only a passing knowledge from Mahler’s reference to the earlier composer’s Humoresken can gain a better understanding of his legacy in this collection. The fine collection released by CPO includes an excellent set of liner notes, which include the full texts and translations. Those interested in the German Lied should find this recording and others in the series of Loewe's songs enlightening because of the fine music it makes available to a wide audience.
James L. Zychowicz