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

Das Gänsebuch (The Geesebook):  German Medieval Chant
20 Mar 2007

Das Gänsebuch (The Geesebook): German Medieval Chant

In their attempt to recreate a combination of musical styles typical of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Nürnberg, Schola Hungarica and its directors László Dobszay & Janka Szendrei have chosen selections from the Gänsebuch, described as the “only complete extant source for the pre-Reformation liturgy of the mass in Nürnberg.” [CD liner-notes, p. 3]

Das Gänsebuch (The Geesebook): German Medieval Chant

Schola Hungarica; László Dobszay & Janka Szendrei, Directors. Matthias Ank, Organ.

Naxos 8.557412 [CD]

$7.99  Click to buy

The manuscript, preserved in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, derives its name from an internal illustration here reproduced on the cover of the CD-booklet. In the featured scene a group of geese singing in choir is assembled before a music-lectern upon which rests an open score. To this presumably liturgical musical piece a wolf points with his baton as he directs the geese in chant. Standing behind this choral group a fox is positioned in astute observation of the performance. The Gänsebuch’s commission has been traced to the church of St. Lorenz, although the masses included in the gradual were associated with parish churches of both St. Lorenz and St. Sebald in late medieval Nürnberg. Feast days in honor of specific saints or blessed figures who were of special importance to the city were incorporated in this extensive compilation, which also represents the larger context of the medieval Roman liturgy. As such, the Gänsebuch represents both local and more wide-ranging cultural traditions and has further been recognized as a significant document for theological, hagiographic, and musicological studies. For the present recording a selection of masses from the Gänsebuch has been chosen, some of which celebrate blessed figures whose official association with churches in Nürnberg was recognized only in the century or so before the commission of the book. These choral selections are performed in the style of traditional chant, indeed hearkening back to an earlier period. In order to underscore the late medieval intent of the performance, the masses are here interspersed with shorter hymns and liturgical selections by fifteenth- and sixteenth-century composers and here performed by the organist Matthias Ank. As a concluding band a brief performance features the famous bells of the Church of St. Lorenz.

The intricate mass for St. Sebaldus, included here in its world-premiere performance, makes evident the importance of this blessed figure in fifteenth-century Nürnberg especially after his official canonization in 1424. Most versions of the vita of Sebaldus locate his youth in Denmark where he was betrothed to a French princess. An early decision to renounce this potential union and to undertake a pilgrimage to Rome marks the beginning of a series of miracles associated with Sebaldus both during and after his life. A selection of these is narrated in the present mass especially in the Sequentia after the introduction of Sebaldus in the “Alleluia.” As the liturgical order is here presented, an intricate alternation of male and female choral parts is used as a structural device in the six parts from Introit to Communion. The actual narration of the “Vita Sebaldii” proceeds in the fourth division of the mass, or Sequentia, as a relatively unadorned declamation. In opposition to the regular rhythmic patterns in this narrative part of the mass, those symbolic associations connecting the blessedness of Sebaldus and the divinity are performed with much greater decorative emphasis. Before the citation of Sebaldus’s name in the Alleluia, the Gradual of the mass features the phrase “Lex Dei … in corde ipsius” (“the law of God resides in his heart”). The phrase is performed by male chorus with an extended, and here skillfully performed, melisma on the words describing the heart of Sebaldus. Likewise in the Offertorium a female chorus recites the symbolic phrase “in capite eius coronam de lapide pretioso”(“upon his head a crown of precious stones”) with significant decoration in contrast to the actual vita. The performance by Schola Hungarica emphasizes the inner, spiritual beauty of Sebaldus as an exemplary figure. Corporeal symbols are thus performed here as a magnification of internal sanctity. In consequence, the events of his life and death are given credence, such as the narration of his post-mortem transportation by oxen to a chosen spot in Nürnberg. According to legend and the text of the present mass, the animals refuse to move further until the designated area is declared as hallowed ground. The Church of St. Sebaldus was allegedly erected later in this very location.

In the mass from the Gänsebuch dedicated to St. Martha aspects of her vita are integrated throughout all the individual segments. Already in the Introit and the Gradual Martha is named and her legendary encounter with a serpent is noted. By contrast, the actual narrative of the deeds of Sebaldus in his corresponding dedicatory mass begins only in the Alleluia and the Sequentia. The bipartite nature of legends surrounding the figure of Martha, and the attempts to integrate both traditions into the service here presented, could explain the more expansive treatment of the saint in her titular mass. As mentioned in the Gospel of John, Martha is identified as the sister of Lazarus and Mary. In their home in Bethany Martha serves the supper during which the feet of Christ are anointed by Mary. The behavior of Martha here would explain domestic associations with the saint, just as she had gone out to welcome Christ when His arrival in Bethany was made known earlier in John’s Gospel. Her attributes in this report include both a ladle, or similar kitchen tool, and a set of keys, in either case indicating associations with the home. An alternate legend associated with Martha locates her together with Lazarus and Mary in a boat which lands at Marseilles. Since this journey occurs after the death of Christ, it is generally associated with Martha’s contribution to spreading the new belief. After leaving the boat, Martha frees the people of Aix from the repeated attacks of a dragon and converts them simultaneously to Christianity. She was allegedly able to defeat the beast by holding forth a cross or by sprinkling it with consecrated water. Both symbols are reckoned as attributes of Martha in this version of her legend, in addition to her depiction with a dragon in a tamed or defeated pose. Such associations of Martha with physical and spiritual strength are featured in the Introit of the Gänsebuch mass: here a chain or girdle, with which Martha bound the dragon, is related to her personal commitment to the sign of the cross. The succeeding parts of the mass alternate between both versions of Martha’s legendary nature, signifying either domesticity or spiritual power. After reference to the dragon’s fury in the Introit, both divisions of the mass which follow immediately, the Gradual and the Alleluia, highlight Martha’s skills at hospitality. In the performance by Schola Hungarica these are assigned for the Gradual to a male and for the Alleluia to a female choral group. In the first of these two parts Martha’s solitary duty is emphasized by the choral decoration extended on the word “solam” in the phrase “soror mea reliquit me solam ministrare” (“my sister leaves me alone to serve”). The Alleluia features similar melismatic decoration of the names Martha and Mariae Filio, Son of Mary. Here Martha’s hospitality to welcome Christ in her home is a precursor to the future joy that she will sense when welcomed by Christ in heaven. The female chorus in this performance expresses the ideal mutual exchange of domestic welcome as a symmetrical effect in both worlds.

Other pieces chosen from the Gänsebuch for this rich sampling by Schola Hungarica give a picture of late medieval religious culture in central and southern Germany. As an example, the Mass for the Holy Lance and the Nails, originating at the court of Emperor Charles IV in the fourteenth century, survives as one of the most significant religious feast days in fifteenth-century Nürnberg. Its premiere recording here leaves open the welcome prospect for future attention to the specific mass, its liturgical and cultural importance, and its potential relation to other religious celebrations in the late Middle Ages.

Salvatore Calomino

Madison, Wisconsin

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):