Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Gustav Mahler: Songs of a Wayfarer; Symphony no. 1 in D
24 Jan 2007

MAHLER: Songs of a Wayfarer; Symphony no. 1 in D

A welcome addition to the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s own line of releases, this CD is a compilation of two works by Gustav Mahler that the late Klaus Tennstedt performed with the ensemble and which have not been issued previously.

Gustav Mahler: Songs of a Wayfarer; Symphony no. 1 in D

Thomas Hampson, baritone; Klaus Tennstedt, conductor; London Philharmonic Orchestra.

LPO-0012 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

Presented in two discrete concerts, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen was recorded on 26 September 1991, and the First Symphony from 12 February 1985, with both given at the Royal Festival Hall, London.

A fine interpreter of Mahler’s music, Thomas Hampson was in fine voice for the 1991 performance, and the recording captures his sound quite well. If anything, his voice sounds more forward than the ensemble accompanying him, with the orchestral timbres blended appropriately. Tennstedt’s tempos support the vocal line well, with the interludes sometimes shaped to enhance the texts. With “Ging heut’ morgen übers Feld,” for example, the orchestral slowing before the final strophe is essential to the emphasis that Hampson gives to the final two lines that convey the reversal of tone at the end of the song: “Nun fängt auch mein Glück wohl an? / Nein, nein, das ich mein’, / Mir nimmer blühen kann!” Here the vocalist and conductor must work hand-in-glove, and the performance is exemplary in conveying the shift in mood that is crucial to understanding the song and the rest of the cycle.

As to Hampson’s vocalism, the upper range is quite effective, and demonstrates the kind of lyricism that endeared him to audiences around the world. He shows his capacity to use register as an expressive device, and thus enhances Lieder like these without forcing onto the music affectations that compete with the musical text. A full voice, Hampson is by no means reluctant to start the third song aggressively, and thus suggest the almost hallucinatory state of mind that is crucial for “Ich hab’ ein glühen Messer.” Yet when the music calls for subtlety, he has the capacity to do so with full support, as in the subdued, but never vapid, approach he has given to “Die zwei blauen Augen.” Likewise, Tennstedt’s control of the orchestral never ventures into the singer’s realm, and always serves to support the characteristically Lieder-like style of this orchestral song cycle.

With the recording of Mahler’s First Symphony, a work for which Tennstedt was well known, and this performance predates the esteemed recording of the piece that he made with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1991. As difficult as it can be to describe conductors’ approaches, it is otherwise with Tennstedt. In this work he offers a spaciousness that allows the ensemble to render this demanding score effectively. The relatively slow opening movement allows the various motives to emerge clearly, without forcing the passage that translate the vocal line from “Ging heut’ morgen übers Feld.” At the same time, the pacing gives the brass – especially the trumpet – the opportunity to use a sweet, ringing sound that comes across clearly as an individual color. Likewise, it is a fine tempo for demonstrating the cohesiveness of the strings that Mahler relied on to for the timbral core of much of the first movement.

The second movement, the Scherzo, conveys the sense of a Landler in its easy, almost rocking tempo. This movement has its challenges in the lengthy stretches that have no tempo markings to guide the conductor and, at the same time, shorter passages that are in contrast overly marked by Mahler. The conductor must resolve the issues himself, and Tennstedt has done so well, with nuances of accelerandos and ritardandos that underscore the music without become mannered or unnatural. Ultimately the Scherzo must accelerate the weight of its own texture to the climax that precedes the central, lyrical section, and Tennstedt did so well in this performance, with the center of the movement convincingly delicate.

For some Mahler’s innovation is the ironic funeral march of the third movement, and the recording captures that tone. The slow tempo that Tennstedt took in the opening section forced the unusual solo instruments to become prominent. There is a hint of a reaching in the tuba that does not sometimes occur, and that is entirely appropriate to the style of the piece. Likewise, the Bohemian wind band sounds – sometimes suggested to be influenced by Klezmer ensembles – is sufficiently colorful without becoming a caricature. The details, which are always essential in successful performances of Mahler’s music, are evident here, with trills that are long enough to be heard clearly, but never out of character. Yet the middle section, the passage that Mahler derived from “Die zwei blauen Augen” has a cantabile quality that sets it apart from the wry humor with which the movement opened. Here, the quotation of the song is as crucial to the direction found in the rest of the Symphony as the ritardando – almost a piacere style – that must occur before the final few lines of “Ging heut’ morgen übers Feld.” It is as this point that Tennstedt sets the tone that is resolved and developed in the Finale. Thus, the attacca connection between the third and fourth movements is a critical element that must occur, and it is handled well in this concert performance, where no audience noise is evident.

Again, the aspect of spaciousness that Tennstedt brought to the opening movement is essential to his interpretation of the Finale. Never do the brass sound rushed or pushed prematurely to the brink of their abilities. At the same time, they never overbalance the string textures that Mahler used the movement, but rather color it. Here and there it is possible to hear some entrances that betray the recording as a live performance, but overall it holds together in ways that have sometimes escaped conductors in studio recordings. The anthem-like tone of the final section of the movement takes the listeners to the musical climax without allowing the coda to seem an afterthought. It is an effective performance that deserves to be heard in order to appreciate both Tennstedt’s legacy and the capacity of the London Philharmonic for performing this repertoire.

James L. Zychowicz

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):