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

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.

Francisco Valls' Missa Regalis: The Choir of Keble College Oxford and the AAM

In the annals of musical controversies, the Missa Scala Aretina debate does not have the notoriety of the Querelle des Bouffons, the Monteverdi-Artusi spat, or the audience-shocking premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Two song cycles by Sir Arthur Somervell: Roderick Williams and Susie Allan

Robert Browning, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Charles Kingsley, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A.E. Housman … the list of those whose work Sir Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) set to music, in his five song-cycles, reads like a roll call of Victorian poetry - excepting the Edwardian Housman.

Roger Quilter: The Complete Quilter Songbook, Vol. 3

Mark Stone and Stephen Barlow present Volume 3 in their series The Complete Roger Quilter Songbook, on Stone Records.

Richard Danielpour – The Passion of Yeshua

A contemporary telling of the Passion story which uses texts from both the Christian and the Jewish traditions to create a very different viewpoint.

Les Talens Lyriques: 18th-century Neapolitan sacred works

In 1770, during an extended tour of France and Italy to observe the ‘present state of music’ in those two countries, the English historian, critic and composer Charles Burney spent a month in Naples - a city which he noted (in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771)) ‘has so long been regarded as the centre of harmony, and the fountain from whence genius, taste, and learning, have flowed to every other part of Europe.’

Herbert Howells: Missa Sabrinensis revealed in its true glory

At last, Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (1954) with David Hill conducting the Bach Choir, with whom David Willcocks performed the piece at the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Willcocks commissioned this Mass for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954, when Howells himself conducted the premiere.

Le Banquet Céleste: Stradella's San Giovanni Battista

The life of Alessandro Stradella was characterised by turbulence, adventure and amorous escapades worthy of an opera libretto. Indeed, at least seven composers have turned episodes from the 17th-century Italian composer’s colourful life into operatic form, the best known being Flotow whose three-act comic opera based on the Lothario’s misadventures was first staged in Hamburg in 1844.

Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads - a new recording from SOMM

In 1877, Ethel Smyth, aged just nineteen, travelled to Leipzig to begin her studies at the German town’s Music Conservatory, having finally worn down the resistance of her father, General J.H. Smyth.

Wagner: Excerpts from Der Ring des Niebelungen, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, RCA-Sony

This new recording of excerpts from Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen is quite exceptional - and very unusual for this kind of disc. The words might be missing, but the fact they are proves to have rather the opposite effect. It is one of the most operatic of orchestral Wagner discs I have come across.

Wagner: Die Walküre, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Simon Rattle, BR Klassik

Simon Rattle has never particularly struck me as a complex conductor. He is not, for example, like Furtwängler, Maderna, Boulez or Sinopoli - all of whom brought a breadth of learning and a knowledge of composition to bear on what they conducted.

Dvořák Requiem, Jakub Hrůša in memoriam Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák Requiem op.89 (1890) with Jakub Hrůša conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Requiem was one of the last concerts Jiří Bělohlávek conducted before his death and he had been planning to record it as part of his outstanding series for Decca.

Schumann Symphonies, influenced by song

John Eliot Gardiner's Schumann series with the London Symphony Orchestra, demonstrate the how Schumann’s Lieder and piano music influenced his approach to symphonic form and his interests in music drama.

Unusual and beautiful: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė with the Kremerata Baltica, in this new release from Deutsche Grammophon.

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):