Recently in Recordings
Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
27 Feb 2007
Rachmaninov and Glinka: Lieder • Songs • Chants
Originally released by Deutsche Grammophon in 1976, this recording of selected songs by Sergei
Rachmaninov (1873-1943) and Mikhail Glinka (1804-57) make available some fine examples of
Russian art song to Western audiences.
At that time the voice of Galina Vishnevskaya was known in
the West, notably in the famous recording of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. Yet this release shows
Vishnevskaya in her native mileu, with works that are quintessentially Russian, albeit separated by
seventy years, from the earliest songs by Glink to the latest ones by Rachmaninov.
At the mention of Russian art song, aural images of several pieces by Tchaikovsky or Mussorgsky
emerge, but the repertoire is much richer than that, with a tradition that antedates both composers and
extends beyond them. The famous “Vocalise” of Rachmaninov (op. 34, no. 14) is known in various
settings, and Vishnevskaya’s performance on this recording is a solid one that shows her burnished
timbre and elegant lyricism. This work brings to mind the modal inflections that are stylistically present in
the art songs of a number of Russian composers, albeit to varying degrees of emphasis. With the five
selections by Rachmaninov chosen for this recording, such modality supports the long melodic lines that
reinforce the texts. While Pushkin may be the most familiar of the poets for these selections, the other
verses show Rachmaninov’s sensitivity to texts that he found meaningful. “Ne poi, krassavica” op. 4,
no. 4 (translated here as “Oh, never sing to me again”) is a fine example of the kind of art song that
Rachmaninov pursued and which Vishnevskaya delivers well.
Yet the music of the earlier generation of Russian composers is not without interest, and the art songs of
Glinka call attention to the fine vocal music he composed. While Western audiences may know him for
the overture to Russlan and Ludmilla, the vocal writing in that opera and other works shows his
sensitivity to the declamation of Russian texts and an expressive line that transcends the literal texts. The
“Barkarola” (with an anonymous text) translates the Western form to a Russian and vocal idiom. In
another, “K nej,” (“To her”) Glinka sets the poetry of Polish writer Adam Mickiewicz, whose works
influenced others, including Gustav Mahler. While some of Glinka’s songs are relatively short, some of
the more sustained pieces, like “Somnenie” (translated here as “Doubt”) convey the sense of a dramatic
moment that a signer like Vishnevskaya can project well in live performances and also in recordings like
this. The eight selections of Glinka’s songs are well chosen, and the performances are convincing. With
a singer like Vishnevskaya accompanied by such a fine pianist as Mstislav Rostropovich, this recital of
Russian song (total duration, about forty-five minutes), not only captures the national style, but also the
intrinsically musical qualities of the music these performers chose to preserve in this recording.
Not previously released on CD, this recording was reissued to commemorate Vishnevskaya’s eightieth
birthday. The CD is a fine transfer of the recording, with fine sonics and the kind of ambiance that is
customary with Deutsche Grammophon. Those unfamiliar with Vishnevskaya’s voice should enjoy this
recital which shows the soprano at her prime, and individual who are familiar with the singer in operas
and other large-scale works will enjoy her more intimate performances in this song recital.
James L. Zychowicz