Recently in Recordings
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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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.
21 Dec 2006
The collection of sacred compositions published by Claudio Monteverdi in Venice in 1610 with a Latin title of jaw-breaking length (in which vesperae is only the tenth word) has attained the sort of elevated status granted to but a few works, which stand so high that the rest of the landscape is almost invisible from their peaks, or to put it in plainer language, a music-lover may have heard or heard of the Vespers without knowing any of the composer’s other works, nor those of his contemporaries (rather like the Four Seasons, or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice). There are over two dozen recordings of the work on the market at this writing.
Even the connoisseur may not have a good sense of the context of the work in 1610, nor indeed of its place in Monteverdi’s production. It was the first of only two collections of music for the church published during the composer’s lifetime, and one can see it as an elaborate poke in the eye for Monteverdi’s critic Artusi, who attacked (not without some justification, indeed) Monteverdi’s supposed incompetence as a contrapuntist, as manifest in the latter’s 4th and 5th books of madrigals, published in 1603 and 1605, respectively. Though Monteverdi had studied composition with Ingegneri in Cremona, he was employed in Mantua as an instrumentalist, with a background in improvised dance music, and not as a singer. From Artusi’s point of view, the licenses permitted a string band had made their way into Monteverdi’s vocal works, where they were solecisms.
And so the first work mentioned in that Latin title is not the Vespers, but the mass in six parts In illo tempore, based on a motet by Gombert from fifty years earlier. Monteverdi, who prints the motives which he has taken from Gombert at the beginning of the mass in the partbooks, obviously wants to show that he has a mastery of the craft of composition as it was done “in those days” (the literal meaning of the title of the motet). This task being accomplished, the remaining works — the music for Vespers, with psalm settings and vocal concerti — show how Monteverdi could produce a sacred music which would combine traditional aspects (the use of the chanted psalm tone) with techniques from his years as an instrumentalist.
I can't claim to have heard all the rival claimants, but from what I have heard hear I can state that the recording by King and his collaborators must certainly stand out as one of the notable recordings of 2006, a thoroughly satisfying performance which brings this masterwork to vibrant life, combining deep resonance with ringing clarity, every moment, every phrase breathing as it should, the vocal soloists first-rate, the sounds of the winds and strings vital, the chorus beautifully blended and in tune. I wanted to be there in the hall to hear this music performed live, I wanted to be part of this sound. This recording is that good. Plaudits not only to the musicians, but to the recording technicians who made this sound possible.