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.
07 Jan 2007
Decca loves to repackage this set. Your reviewer first acquired it as a low-price "Double Decca" release, with no libretto. Just a couple years ago saw another incarnation, with a great cover pic of Price and Karajan locked in an embrace - Karajan as Scarpia? Or Cavaradossi - take one's pick.
Now under the double sobriquet "Legendary recordings - The originals" comes a remastering, with the original cover art restored. The sound effects come across as vividly as ever, including hands down the best cannon-shot accompaniment to Scarpia's act one closer. In headphones, the channel-switching from line-to-line could be more subtle; otherwise, the recording has a clarity and presence that fully complement the dramatic reading of the score.
Of course, for studio recordings of Tosca, the appellation "benchmark" invariably goes to the early 50s set with Callas, di Stefano in his prime, and Gobbi under Victor de Sabata. But greatness in recordings need not be a zero-sum game - and this Decca set very much has its own strengths. Your reviewer can't say one set is better than the other - they are both tremendous.
Callas, of course, portrays a Tosca on the edge - as fierce in her love for Cavaradossi as she is passionate in her desperation before Scarpia. With Price, one has a Floria whose incomparable tonal beauty in act one tilts the drama, effectively, toward the perspective of a tragically doomed love affair. When she sings of the little house she wants to share with Cavaradossi, Price's security and creaminess have no equal; the sense of an erotic idyll conveyed here haunts the memory when much later Cavaradossi in despair also recalls their meetings. Similarly, "Vissi d'arte" does not get pulled and huffed to underline the drama of the moment - Price understands that the music can speak for itself. Her performance has no rivals for sheer gorgeousness.
Di Stefano had come through some rough years by 1963, and he responds to Karajan's confidence in him by providing one final great performance. Yes, the freshness that marks his performance 10 years earlier has gone. In its place a new depth, a rough-edged heroism appears. From the second act onward, at any rate, Cavaradossi is a man who has been tortured and faces death. A little hoarseness should be expected. The core quality of di Stefano's great instrument still comes through.
And what a Scarpia this set has - Giuseppe Taddei, in total command of every vocal aspect of the role, and riding the creepy slow-pace Karajan sets for the "Te deum" section with ominous power. As with the comparison of Price to Callas, we have with Taddei, as opposed to the undeniably great Tito Gobbi on the earlier set, a singer who lets his impeccable performance of the music itself provide the drama. From wicked enjoyment in his own cruelty to the silky murmurings of a smooth seducer, Taddei's Scarpia finds all the characterization necessary in the glory of Puccini's writing.
The Vienna Philharmonic roars and purrs under Karajan's leadership like a barely domesticated lion. As is not unknown with Karajan, a sense of manipulation lies just behind the amazing display of conducting craftsmanship, but why fight the maestro? Give in.
Whether those who already own this set need the remastering must be a personal decision. But for lovers of this opera who do not know this recording - get it. It makes its own case for greatness, all comparisons aside.