Recently in Recordings
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.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
06 Apr 2007
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Film music has become a sort of refuge for some music lovers turned off by the work of those serious music composers who have turned increasingly away from attempting an encounter with a broader public, retreating into an insular word of academic composition.
At least in a film
score, one can still hear snatches of melody, even if lacking in further development. However,
just as the world of “serious music” isn’t producing composers like Dimitri Shostakovich or
Samuel Barber these days, the world of film music lacks an Elmer Bernstein, a John Barry. There
are good composers out there, in both worlds - but that final touch of inspiration and originality
has gone missing.
Which brings us to the soundtrack for the film version of Patrick Süskind’s novel Perfume,
which relates the creepy story of a man born with no body odor. He becomes fascinated with
scents, and his career as a creator of perfume soon develops into a serial killer’s obsessed pursuit
of the perfect aroma. One will have to employ some detective skills, probably employing a
magnifying glass, to identify the composer of the film’s score on the front, or even back, cover of
the CD. In fact, the credit goes to composers, for the film’s director, Tom Tykwer, also took on
the role of scorer, with the “collaboration of his two musical associates, Johnny Klimek and
Reinhold Heil,” as the booklet essay declares. Other than the film’s title, the primary cover credit
goes to the Berlin Philharmonic, under the leadership of Simon Rattle.
What we have here, then, is a world-class orchestra performing relatively simple music, both in
harmony and rhythm. Often short phrases are repeated over slowly altering chords. A wordless
chorus haunts many of the tracks, with two adult female sopranos (Chen Reiss and Melanie
Mitrano) and one boy soprano (Victor De Maiziere) contributing their own wordless spookiness.
For over seventy minutes and 18 tracks, a mood of subtly threatening lusciousness prevails, with
no fast music to speak of. Think of it as Bernard Hermann meets Vangelis.
To have Rattle and the Berlin Phil perform this music brings to a mind a gorgeous Maserati
purring at 25 miles per hour, gliding interminably through residential streets, encumbered with
stop signs every couple of blocks. Gorgeous to look at, in other words, but a waste of effort, not
to mention gasoline.
With DVDs so easily available and affordable, exactly why anyone would want an audio-only
version of this type of film score confuses your reviewer. But for anyone who would like some
insistently eerie yet sensuous background music for an evening of, well, romance, perhaps this is
just the disc. Hit “repeat.”