Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
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.