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.
17 Jan 2007
Some interesting repertory choices and the participation of some of today's most attractive singers make this particular "gala" evening of "walk on-sing-walk off" entertainment more consistently enjoyable than these affairs often are.
The evening is a fund-raiser for the German
AIDS foundation, and after a brief (and strangely awkward) filmed statement in English from
soprano Michèle Crider, the show gets underway with an exciting "Entry of the Guests" from
Tannhäuser, with Marcus Stenz leading the Opera Cologne orchestra and its excellent chorus (all
sporting the familiar red ribbon).
The contribution of the emcee, a "cabaret artist" named Konrad Beikircher, may damage the
enjoyment of some viewers. Clearly reading from notes, with an unmotivated chuckle behind
much of his spiel, the emcee's palaver should have been separately tracked for easy skipping.
Instead, the "fast forward" button will have to be exercised in order to avoid mostly old and
tiresome anecdotes and such gratuitous commentary as an unctuous trashing of the Forza libretto.
Perhaps in his native environment this gentleman puts on quite a show; here, the cameraman
pans the audience anxiously to find the occasional audience member breaking a smile.
The singing, fortunately, makes up for this annoyance. Thomas Quastoff appears first, with a
"Lied an den Abendstern" of rare handsomeness and sensitivity. Much later in the show he comes
back with a delightful rarity, "O sancta justitia" from Lortzing's Zar und Zimmerman. After
Quastoff's Wagner, the show then shifts to bel canto, with young tenor Saimur Pirgu delivering
an able "Una Furtiva Lagrima," his tone only lacking that mysterious charismatic quality that
tenors such as Rolando Villazon and Juan-Diego Florez possess. But Pirgu may yet attain that
status; towards show's end he sings a very sweet "Non ti scordar di me."
Vivica Genaux appears after Pirgu's Donizetti to give a demonstration of impeccable technique
in "Nacqui all'affanno" from Cenerentola, which Isabel Bayrakdarian has to follow. She imparts a
sense of drama into Semiramide's "Bel raggio lusinghier," though she is not in Genaux's class as
a Rossinian. Genaux is just as exciting later with a surprising choice, a zarzuela number about a
tarantula from Jerónimo Giménez.
Upstaging the females in the "hair" department, Carlos Alvarez's wild black lion's mane
impresses just as much as his forceful "Leonore, viens" from La Favorite. The vibrato will either
appeal or come across as a touch too heavy, depending on taste. Tamar Iveri's healthy soprano
may be a touch too strong to deliver a truly tender "Dove sono." Later in the program, however,
she does very well by the exquisite "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" from Puccini's Rondine. Ms.
Crider, a reliable if unexciting singer, works earnestly through "Pace pace mio Dio." Her
"Summertime" (which also serves as the inexplicable "theme" of the gala) finds her approach
much too overbearing for a lullaby.
Neil Shicoff sings the two big Tosca tenor arias, with distractingly strenuous facial exertions.
The "Recondita armonia" doesn't quite come off, but "E lucevan le stelle" earns him one of the
evening's most lively audience responses. The tenor also seems to have found his way to
Pavarotti's hair colorist.
In the middle of the program Edda Moser and two young singers, Claudia Rohrbach and Regina
Richter, perform the Rosenkavalier trio. Unfortunately, Ms. Moser's experienced (to put it
kindly) voice doesn't blend well with the freshness of the two others. Once again, to put it
The last solo appearance has Carlos Alvarez reappear for the rarest of the evening's repertory
choices, "Bless your beautiful hide" from the Gene de Paul score for Seven Brides for Seven
Brothers. Without necessarily forgoing his operatic training, Alvarez imbues the song with easy
masculine charm, making for a delightful performance.
Then most of the singers (Shicoff noticeably absent) trot on to perform "Tonight" from West
Side Story as an ensemble piece. Odd, but enjoyable nonetheless.
The disc also offers as bonus items a speech thankfully cut from the main DVD program, a short
documentary of some of the work the German AIDS foundation has done in South Africa, and a
bizarre trailer for this very gala. All in all, the ratio of fine performances to those less so and
some innovative repertory choices make this one of the better gala DVDs, if one can tolerate the