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.
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.