Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Franz Joseph Haydn: Les Sept Dernières Paroles du Christ
18 Feb 2007

HAYDN: Les Sept Dernières Paroles du Christ

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words is well known, both as a familiar part of modern Lenten devotions and also as something of a stylistic oddity, I suspect.

Franz Joseph Haydn: Les Sept Dernières Paroles du Christ

Accentus; Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin; Sandrine Piau, soprano; Ruth Sandhoff, mezzo-soprano; Robert Getchell, tenor; Harry van der Kamp, bass; Lauarence Equilbey (conductor)

Naïve V5045 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

Devotional instrumental music, save that for the associatively “consecrated” organ, leaves us somewhat confused, as the expectations of genre begin to blur. Haydn conceived of the Seven Last Words as an orchestral work in 1786—music to be performed in the context of Holy Week as contemplative reflections on Jesus’s Passion. Strikingly, of course, these Seven Last Words had no words at all, as was also the case with his string quartet arrangement, thus subverting the long-conditioned notion that devotional music is both sung and texted. (It is not only the absence of voice and text that challenges the sense of genre; certain idioms, such as the “horn-fifths” at the beginning of the seventh word seem so rich in association that it is difficult to reconcile their bucolicism with Calvary.)

“Long-conditioned notions” inspired a vocal version of Haydn’s work by the Passau Kapellmeister, Joseph Friebert. Haydn heard this version in 1795 and set about to render it with his own stamp. In this new version, soloists and choir are added to the instrumental landscape, singing texts that expand and reflect on Jesus’s words from the cross, much in the manner of eighteenth-century opera, where poetic arias reflect and expand on recitative. And to make this reflective dynamic more explicit, Haydn also adds unaccompanied statements of the words from the cross themselves—in function like a recitative—sung before the reflections in turn. In one instance, however, he foregoes this pattern and replaces the word from the cross with a new instrumental movement for winds.

The conductor, Laurence Equilbey, in the program notes writes of the vocal version as being like colla parte in reverse. That is, whereas normative liturgical practice often found instruments doubling the voices for support and for timbral enrichment, in this case it is the voices that double the instruments. They enrich the tone color, their addition of text particularizes the moment, but unlike music conceived for orchestra and choir, the role of who accompanies whom is seemingly up for grabs: the presence of voices leads one to expect that, as usual, they are in “first chair,” but the genesis of the version and the sound itself bring that into question.

Much of the most powerful writing remains reserved for instruments alone: the opening introduction, with wonderfully incisive sonorities enhanced here by period instruments is one example, and the movement that precedes the fifth reflection is another. This is moodily evocative, eerie and unsettling, and the scoring for winds alone (including Haydn’s first use of contrabassoon) places the movement in high relief.

Choir and orchestra alike follow Equilbey’s strong dynamic sense, rendering highly contoured lines that move compellingly from theatricality to contemplation. Moreover, the utterly simple writing of the unaccompanied “words” shows the choir’s striking degree of control and infection. The work itself may blur our sense of genre, but there is no lack of clarity regarding the strength of the performance.

Steven Plank

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):