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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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
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.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
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 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’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.
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.
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