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

Sandrine Piau: Si j’ai aimé

Sandrine Piau and Le Concert de la Loge (Julien Chauvin), Si j’ai aimé, an eclectic collection of mélodies demonstrating the riches of French orchestral song. Berlioz, Duparc and Massenet are included, but also Saint-Saëns, Charles Bordes, Gabriel Pierné, Théodore Dubois, Louis Vierne and Benjamin Godard.

The VOCES8 Foundation is launched at St Anne & St Agnes

Where might you hear medieval monophony by the late 12th-century French composer Pérotin, Renaissance polyphony by William Byrd, a vocal arrangement of the stirring theme from Sibelius’s tone poem Finlandia, alongside a newly commissioned work, ‘Vertue’ (2019) by Jonathan Dove, followed by an arrangement of the Irish folksong ‘Danny Boy’ and a snappy rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘One Note Samba’ arr. for eight voices by Naomi Crellin, all within 90 minutes?

Gerald Finzi Choral Works

From Hyperion, Gerald Finzi choral works with the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Layton. An impressive Magnificat (1952) sets the tone.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Stéphanie D’Oustrac: Sirènes

After D’Oustrac’s striking success as Cassandre in Berlioz Les Troyens, this will reach audiences less familiar with her core repertoire in the baroque and grand opéra. Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and La mort d’Ophélie, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and the Lieder of Franz Liszt are very well known, but the finesse of D’Oustrac’s timbre lends a lucid gloss which makes them feel fresh and pure.

Luminous Mahler Symphony no.3: François-Xavier Roth, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.3 with François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, now at last on CD, released by Harmonia Mundi, after the highly acclaimed live performance streamed a few months ago.

A First-Ever Recording: Benjamin Godard’s 1890 Opera on Dante and Beatrice

The composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is today largely unknown to most music lovers. Specialist collectors, though, have been enjoying his songs (described as “imaginative and delightful” by Robert Moore in American Record Guide), his Concerto Romantique for violin (either in its entirety or just the dancelike Canzonetta, which David Oistrakh recorded winningly decades ago), and some substantial chamber and orchestral works that have received first recordings in recent years.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Johann Sebastian Bach.  Cantatas Vol. 26 (Whit Sunday and Whit Monday)
02 May 2007

BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 26 (Whit Sunday and Whit Monday)

Among the virtues of hearing Bach cantatas performed in liturgical order—one of the hallmarks of John Eliot Gardiner’s stunning Cantata Pilgrimage of 2000—is the chance to savor Bach’s range of approach to unified text themes.

Johann Sebastian Bach. Cantatas Vol. 26 (Whit Sunday and Whit Monday).
Erschallet, ihr Lieder, BWV 172; Wer mich liebet, BWV 59; Wer mich liebet, BWV 74; O ewiges Feuer, BWV 34; Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut, BWV 173; Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt, BWV 68; Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte, BWV 174.

Lisa Larsson, soprano; Nathalie Stutzmann, alto; Derek Lee Ragin, alto; Christoph Genz, tenor; Panajotis Iconomou, bass. The Monteverdi Choir; The English Baroque Soloists; John Eliot Gardiner, Director.

SDG 121 [2CDs]

$40.49  Click to buy

In this present volume Gardiner presents seven cantatas, all for Pentecost Sunday and Monday, with a chronological span of 1714 to 1746/7. Thus we hear not only the development and refinement of Bach’s own abilities, but also his development of specific material. For instance, the opening duet of Wer mich liebet, BWV 59 is amply fleshed out later as the opening chorus of Wer mich liebet, BWV 74, an expansion in both vocal and instrumental scoring, rather like Bach discovering a newly rich palette of hues and returning to re-color an earlier image. (Three of the cantatas, BWV 173, 68, and 174, adapt material, as well, including a splendid reworking of part of the third Brandenburg, although the models are not recorded here.)

The variety within the cantatas of the collection can be impressive. Erschallet, ihr Lieder, BWV 172, for example, presents a festive chorus, appealingly brilliant and exuberant, an aria with some of Bach’s most virtuosic trumpeting, a duet in the form of a love scene between the Soul and the Spirit, akin to the sensuous duets of Ich hatte viel Bekummernis, BWV 21 from the previous year or Johann Christoph Bach’s wonderful Meine Freundin, du bist schön, and also a richly adorned chorale, a setting of Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern with violin descant. An early work dating from 1714, it shows Bach in full control of varied resources and having no shortage of ideas in response to an imageful text.

Performed and recorded in June, 2000, this installment of the Cantata Pilgrimage falls midway through the year’s tour of (primarily) European churches. And though personnel will vary throughout the year, it is significant that here at the midpoint the ensemble’s “house style” is well established and the performances show no sign of fatigue with the project nor staleness in the rendition. Among the solo singers, tenor Christoph Genz, a former chorister at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, is particularly memorable for his brilliant sound and nimble execution, as well as his lyrical sensitivity. Soprano Lisa Larsson draws the task of singing one of Bach’s best-known arias, the chestnut “Mein gläubiges Herze” from Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt, BWV 68. Her performance sparkles and smiles, especially in collaboration with David Watkin’s spry violoncello piccolo accompaniment. Also notable is countertenor Derek Lee Ragin’s dramatic rendition of the highly theatrical aria “ Nichts kann mich erretten” from cantata 74. Ragin has a flair for the dramatic propensities here and the deft technique to “laugh at Hell’s anger.” The dynamic variation with his register shifts may detract on occasion, but this extraordinarily gestural aria is well-served by his commanding interpretation.

The choir is seasoned and fluent in its singing—Bach seems to be for them a “native tongue.” Gardiner has a wonderful capacity for investing his performances with rhythmic excitement, especially evident in the choruses. However the line between this rhythmic excitement and a harsh articulative exaggeration is not always well gauged, as in the final chorus of cantata 68.

All in all, however, the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage remains a most impressive undertaking. Its legacy of recordings document music-making of high distinction, indeed.

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):