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.
01 Dec 2006
Sweet was the Song
I doubt that this recital disc, recorded in 2004, could have been intended as a memorial to Arne Dorumsgaard, who died in March of 2006, but the composer’s centrality to the program, and the poetic themes of death, sleep, and mortality that recur in the Elizabethan texts, enable such an interpretation.
The recital’s actual theme is Elizabethan poetry as set
by British composers of the period or of the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries, all performed by tenor Robert Bracey and pianist Andrew Harley.
The final 15 minutes of the 70-minute program are given over to a performance
of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Four Hymns for Tenor, Piano and
Viola, where they are joined by a fellow member of the University of
North Carolina faculty, violist Scott Rawls.
Within the vocal music world, Dorumsgaard is best known for his 22-volume
Canzone Scordate, sensitive arrangements for voice and piano of a
wide variety of songs that would not otherwise be available to artists in
vocal-piano recitals: European folk songs, old songs in French, Italian, and
German, as well as the songs on this disc, most of which were originally lute
songs by Elizabethan-period composers John Dowland, John Bartlet, and John
Attey. Other artists who have recorded his arrangements include Frederica von
Stade and Gerard Souzay, as well as Kirsten Flagstad, who recorded a recital
of Dorumsgaard’s original songs in Norwegian along with a selection of
his arrangements. (The best source of information on him that I have found
online is his obituary.)
The present disc begins with five settings of Elizabethan poetry by Roger
Quilter, whose skillful settings of the texts and interesting but unobtrusive
accompaniments draw us in and introduce three texts that we will hear again
later in the program: Shakespeare’s “O Mistress Mine” and
“Come away death”, and the anonymous “Weep you no
more”, all of which intertwine the themes of love and death, through
grief for the beloved, grief for oneself at being scorned by the beloved, or
an exhortation to love now as death will come soon enough.
This set is followed by a generous selection of Dorumsgaard’s
arrangements. As the tunes, if not the arrangements, are contemporary with
the poetry itself, this section gives a taste of the musical environment in
which the poets wrote the texts. The difficulty I have with this section is
that there is insufficient contrast among the songs to keep my interest
engaged all the way through. With the exception of the minute given over to
the energetic “What thing is love?” the music is fairly languid.
There are ten English lute song arrangements available in the Canzone
Scordate; the artists present six here, then wisely follow with
Dorumsgaard’s arrangement of Thomas Arne’s eighteenth-century
setting of Shakespeare’s “Come away death”, which adds some
stylistic contrast and eases the transition toward the more modern music.
We re-enter the twentieth century with Eric Thiman’s “The
Silver Swan”, a bird whose song in dying makes the statement
“More Geese than Swans now live—more fools than wise”,
which is curmudgeonly but perhaps fitting as a follow-up to the work of
Dorumsgaard, who gave up original composition and devoted himself to
arrangements of earlier music. As if to emphasize the contrast between the
earlier era and the present, the next song is Gustav Holst’s
“Weep you no more”, a text heard twice before as set by Quilter
and Dowland, but noticeably different from either in Holst’s
Wagner-influenced harmonies. The Germanic influence continues into Ivor
Gurney’s delicately lush setting of “Sleep”, a text which
reappears two songs later in an equally fine setting by Peter Warlock, who
counted among his many musical influences both Roger Quilter and the music of
the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. Thus it is fitting that the
Elizabethan-inspired section of the program closes with several more of
Warlock’s songs to Elizabethan texts, finishing with the lively
“As ever I saw”.
By this point in the program, we have spent about 55 minutes hearing a
variety of musical styles unified by the poetry of a single glorious era in
English literature. Bracey sings the songs in an engaged but straightforward
style that doesn’t vary in color much beyond a consistently ringing
timbre that grew a bit tiring for this listener after a while. But when the
sonic landscape opens out with the addition of the viola and the more
triumphant, extroverted music of Vaughan Williams’ 4 Hymns,
Bracey comes into his own. According to the CD booklet, he won first prize in
the Oratorio Society of New York’s Annual International Solo
Competition in 2002, and his skill with that style of music translates well
to this piece, which opens with the two instruments playing at full volume
and the voice cutting through as a triumphant recitative. In the more
meditative second and third songs, the warmth of the viola brings out a
warmth in Bracey’s voice which, if it was there, was not as pronounced
earlier in the recital, when it would have been welcome. An echo of the
triumph of the first song is heard in the concluding “Evening
Hymn” with its evocative ground bass in the piano part of the first and
last verses of the voice, continuing under the viola’s postlude that
gradually fades into quiet as evening falls.
The booklet includes texts of the songs and notes on the composers
represented in the program, as well as biographies of the artists and
publication information on the songs.