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.
10 Jan 2007
MOZART: Così fan tutte
The booklet essay by Gottfried Kraus (translated from the German by Stewart Spencer) for this TDK release of the 1983 Salzburg Così fan tutte presents an intriguing history of the opera, with the Austrian festival taking in a central role in the work’s return to the standard repertory.
Kraus also suggests that this 1983 production turned out to be the last truly successful one in Salzburg, without detailing why Così fan tuttes since then have failed to find success in his eyes.
Michael Hampe’s handsome production moves quickly, with a white curtain descending for scene changes in acts during recitatives. The muted colors, detailed costumes, and tasteful furnishings give a sense of realism to the goings-on — not necessarily a good thing for this opera with its plot of two sisters in love with two men whom they are unable to recognize when they appear under disguise, to test the women’s virtue in a gambit proposed by the elder, cynical Don Alfonso. However, it is also best not to ham up the comic aspects, as the emotional repercussions of the stupid game begin to cut deeply in act two. Hampe directs intelligently, keeping each moment true to that scene’s shade of the story’s shifting tones (sets and costumes are by Mauro Pagano).
TDK has chosen as its star the conductor, Riccardo Muti. He has a large cover shot on the case, another on the rear (the men are only seen in their “Albanian” disguise, and the Don and Despina the maid, not at all). Open the booklet, and there is Muti again, looking handsome and vaguely satanic, all in black amongst the brilliant red seats of the auditorium. The brisk, emphatic overture reveals the maestro in full control. There may be more tender Mozart, or more majestic, but for detail and precision, Muti is hard to beat.
The cast lacks star glamour, but certainly not talent. The sisters receive strong portrayals from Margaret Marshall (Fiordiligi) and Ann Murray (Dorabella). Each captures the essence of her role (Fiordiligi’s wavering pride and Dorabella’s sensual flightiness). However, a more sumptuous soprano could bring more to Fiordiligi’s music, and as Dorabella, Murray’s dark instrument lays on a certain heaviness.
The “boys” are a youthful, strong James Morris (Guglielmo) and the dependable lyric tenor Francisco Araiza. Morris’s second act solo scene earns him the strongest ovation of the night.
Veteran Sesto Bruscantini so far underplays his character’s cynicism and misanthropy that it becomes unclear why he bothers with his nasty little ploy. At least he does not growl his way through the role, as has been known to happen. And stealing the show every time she appears, Kathleen Battle’s Despina sings and act with charm and wit and most gratefully, allows us a few moments away from the opera’s claustrophobic focus on its leads.
So as essay writer Gottfried Kraus suggests, this traditional production has classical elegance. For those looking for a more contemporary approach, check out the recent Berlin production set in the Swinging Sixties.