Recently in Recordings
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
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.
08 Mar 2007
WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Recorded between 18 and 29 June 1984 at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, this production of Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nűrnberg makes a classic presentation of the opera available in a two-DVD set issued in 2006 by Deutsche Grammophon.
As a televised production, the
overture lacks the usual audience shots or pans over the orchestra. Instead, the period line
drawings of Nűrnberg, along with maps of the city, offer a departure that also maintains the
visual interest. Unlike some other operas released by Deutsche Grammophon, this performance
was made for television and, as such, represents a studio recording rather than the kind of live
stage performance broadcast on "Live from the Met" or other, similar means. As such, the visual
aspect of the performance is quite effective, with lighting and angles responsive to the studio
used for the recording. That stated, the ambiance is not as full as can occur in a conventional
opera house, where a level of resonance adds to the overall effect.
That aside, the staging is by Wolfgang Wagner, who also directed the production, which included
an essentially all-star cast. The principals are, for the most part familiar names and voices, and
there is no question about the talented musicians involved with this particular Meistersinger.
Since this performance was recorded over two decades ago, some of the then-new singers have
become familiar to many audiences, and the choices seem well-thought. One anomaly, though,
occurs with the character of Hans Sachs. It is customary to encounter relatively young performers
cast in the roles of David and Walther, but the choice of then-young Bernd Weikl as Hans Sachs
contributed a new and effective dynamic to this recording.
Much can be said, though, for the attention to detail that emerges in a filmed production like this
one. Conducted by the durable Horst Stein, it is a solid performance that delivers the score
without any surprising or idiosyncratic interpretations. At the core of this production is Hans
Sachs, whose humanity precipitates the resolution of the drama, and Weikl has created
memorable interpretation. His rich, supple tone is consistently present, as he anchors the fine cast
from the opening through the end. He clearly knows the role, both vocally and dramatically, with
gestures and body language that are fully in character — his Sachs is worth knowing, and Weikl's
performance stands well with that of other fine singers who have made him come alive on stage.
Yet it is hard to appreciate the character of Sachs without a believable Beckmesser, and Hermann
Prey rendered the thorny personage well. It seems all too easy to portray Beckmesser as a
caricature, but that kind of depiction falls short of the needs of this libretto. Prey brings out the
earnestness of Beckmesser from the start, with a fine delivery of the role.
With the rest of the cast, the performances are reliable, but undifferentiated. It seems that in the
conception of this production, the various characters and their music merge into a more unified
ensemble, just as the various themes coalesce in the overture and other instrumental portions of
the opera. This approach is not without its interest, as it calls attention to the various musical
elements of the work. Yet the concept of music drama that Wagner had delineated by the time he
composed Die Meistersinger requires a balance between the dramatic elements with musical
finesse, and some overt theatricality has its place in performances of this opera. With several
other fine DVDs of Die Meistersinger von Nűrnberg currently available, it is difficult not to draw
comparisons with other performances. The dynamic tension of the other Deutsche Grammophon
DVD, the more recent one from the Met, stands in contrast to this more stagey one from
Bayreuth, and a comparison of the two points to the differences that can occur when an audience
is part of the recording. It is, perhaps, the lack of the live stage that affects the sense of drama
that is critical to opera, and if the present Bayreuth DVD is lacking, the absence of such dramatic
tension must be noted.
While the sound is a bit dry, it is nonetheless clear, without balance problems. As a DVD, rather
than a CD, a choice of sound exists, to PCM Stereo or DTS sound, as is the case with other
releases from Deutsche Grammophon. This particular DVD appears to be marketed to the
English-speaking world, since information about the production, like rubrics for stage direction,
costumes, etc., as well as the digital navigation, are in English. The booklet includes full track
listings, plus a synopsis of the libretto for each of the tracks. All in all, this is a fine performance
that preserves performances of excellent Wagnerians, and it is for their work that this recording
has much to recommend.
James L. Zychowicz