Recently in Recordings
This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
16 Feb 2007
BRAHMS: Ein deutsches Requiem
In dedicating much of his creative life to the Thomaskirche, the German musician Günther
Ramin left his mark on the musical life of Leipzig, and his legacy includes a fine recording of
Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, op. 45.
Recorded live on 1 April 1954, this previously
unreleased performance makes Ramin’s efforts available half a century after his death in 1956.
Those familiar with some modern performances of this work should notice the somewhat
meditative tempos that Ramin used in this work. The opening conveys, for example, a more
atmospheric approach to the work, which is borne out in the choral textures that are evident in
this recording. Monaural by nature, the orchestral forces seem subdued, with the choral forces
more prominent than usual. It is not an unwelcome result, since the chorus is remarkably
nuanced, with the boys’ voices evincing a pure and solid tone that uniquely colors the
Ramin’s tempos with the first movement tend to be slower than usual, with the pacing of the
second movement seeming more marchlike in character. The quiet opening of the movement
conveys a sense of emotional distance that Ramin brings into his interpretation of this work. The
austere sonorities offer a different perspective than some give the work, thus reflecting the more
classically oriented side of Brahms, even within this less-than-traditional treatment of a Requiem,
with its idiosyncratic texts chosen from Scripture in lieu of the conventional Latin Mass.
The third movement is particularly revealing for the interplay between textures, with the solo
parts taken by the baritone Gerhard Niese. Niese’s performance is laudable, but sometimes
overshadowed by the choral forces that weave around the baritone part in this concerto-like
movement in which the text of Psalm 39 resolves, as it were in the verse from the book of
Wisdom, with its assurance of salvation for the just soul. In this movement, the counterpoint is
nicely clear, and it is in such places that the weaknesses of the original recording medium are
apparent. For some reason the sound improves with “Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen,”
perhaps the best-known section of Brahms’ Requiem, and quite effective in Ramin’s treatment of
the music. Near the end of the work, in the sixth movement, the concluding section “Herr, du
bist würdig” is contrastingly more extroverted, with Ramin bringing out the spiritual assurances
implicit in Brahms work.
As a live performance, some ambient sounds are part of the recording, most from the activity on
or near the podium. Audience noise is rare, with the clicking of a baton emerging from time to
time to punctuate the choral timbres. A performance like this may never supplant the famous one
by Klemperer, but Ramin’s stands well on its own merits. Given the fame of the Thomaskirche
and the historically important role of its cantor, this recording offers a fine glimpse into the
musical traditions there in the mid-twentieth century.