Recently in Recordings
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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
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.
26 Feb 2007
Cori Spezzati: Venetian Polychoral Music
If there ever was a moment where architecture and music became passionately tied to one another, it would be when the polychoral music of the 16th century was tied to St. Mark’s
cathedral in Venice.
By placing choral members in various positions across the chapel, the
western choir leaders created the first ‘surround sound’ experience. Cori Spezzati or, “Divided
Chorus” was the method in which this polychoral music was positioned across the chapel to
create such a spellbinding effect. Of all composers working in this genre, Giovanni Gabrieli
seemed most capable of creating such magic. This method rooted itself in Venice partially with
thanks to St Marks Cathedrals choirmaster and composer Adrian Willaert. He formed the
connective tissue between post-Josquin De Prez composition and what we now hear on this
masterful compact disc presented to us by the Chamber Choir of Europe.
This recording, also offered as a Super Audio CD, displays the composers who flourished under
the Venetian School established by Willaert. The Chamber Choir of Europe presents us with a
dazzling performance centered on the secular madrigal and sacred works of Andrea and Giovanni
Gabrieli and Claudio Merulo. Performances of pieces by Andrea Gabrieli, who studied under
Willaert, provide a link from the Franco-Netherlandish style to a later style typical of Venetian
polychoral music, exemplified by his nephew, Giovanni.
Listening to these transitions, we can be thankful that Giovanni kept copious records of his
uncle’s work. He kept a scrupulous eye on the past, but Giovanni was an innovator for his time,
and even when compared to his uncle. Andrea’s “Alla battaaglia” or “A le guancie de rose” are
simple, direct and uncomplicated compared to Giovanni’s “Amor dove mi guidi” which employs
three four-part choirs. Even Giovanni’s “Kyrie eleison” a massive sounding call and response
between choirs - showcases a change in composition and choir organization from Andrea’s
Giovanni is surely the cinemascopic composer of the Venetian school of polyphonic vocal music
on this disc. His madrigals show a quality and complexity that the other composers featured on
“Cori Spezzati” lack. However, Willaert, who played such an integral part in this genre, seems
shortchanged with merely one minuscule yet scintillating piece, “Oh bene mio.” The listener will
benefit from hearing this piece; not only does it refer to the root of the art form of the madrigal,
but one can follow its evolution by listening to Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli afterward.
“Cori Spezzati” makes a curious inclusion of three composers from outside of the Venetian
school, sent by their kings to study with Giovanni Gabrieli, master his style and return to their
respective countries with their own version of the polychoral music of Venice in hand. Still, the
madrigals of Johann Grabbe, Hans Nielson and Mogens Perdersøn do serve more than historical
interest. Grabbe’s “Cor Mio” and Nielson’s “Deh dolce anima” sound slightly more dark and
brooding than Giovanni’s preceding, “Alma cortee s’e bella”. They lack the intensity and
elaborations either Gabrieli. But their presence on this album brings the listener a wider scope
and variety of the mid-sixteenth century’s polychoral spectrum.
“Cori Spezzati” is an exquisite recording. The Chamber Choir of Europe perform near flawlessly
and offer the listener a world of stereoscopic sound and vocal beauty. Only the mostly-English
liner notes pose a problem; they lyrics are translated into German. But language should not deter
one from hearing a piece such as Giovanni’s “Kyrie eleison”, whose vocals spiral to the heavens
and almost echo or cascade off of one another. The beauty of this piece and others on “Cori
Spezzati” is as impressive and miraculous as Saint Marks itself.