Recently in Recordings
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
Since his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1971, conductor James Levine has come to represent the house’s commitment to artistic excellence — reliable, professional, and immaculately presented.
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.
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.