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

Verboten und verbannt
30 May 2007

Verboten und verbannt: Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Zemlinsky, Zeisl, Schönberg, Berg, Mahler.

Verboten und verbannt — forbidden and banned — a phrase used with Jewish composers whose music was proscribed by the Nazis brings to mind more than musical censorship, but also the atrocities that culminated in the Holocaust.

Verboten und verbannt: Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Zemlinsky, Zeisl, Schönberg, Berg, Mahler.

Thomas Hampson, bariton, Wolfram Rieger, piano.

Orfeo CD 708ő 061 [CD]

$15.99  Click to buy

While some of the composers represented by this phrase died before the Third Reich, others lived through it, and like the works of their predecessors preserved on this recording, they endured the horrors of this dark period of the twentieth century. This recital is an attempt to use music of composers so wrongly branded and proscribed to reverse the situation and make the label “Verboten und verbrannt” into an emblem of their merit. The best explanation of the purpose of this recital from the 2005 Salzburg Festival is included in the liner notes Gottfried Kraus:

As in previous years, the programme extended over two evenings, the first of which featured Hampson alone, whereas for the second he was joined by femail colleagues who shared his commitment to the subject. In both he confronted his festival audience with the works of composers whom the National Socialists had banned, outlawed, driven into exile and in some cases even murdered. Both programmes were titled Verboten und verbannt (Forbidden and Banned). Hampson’s aim was not so much to engage on a political level with one of the darkest chapters in human history. Instead, he wanted to show that art is ultimately more powerful than evil and brute force. Many of the songs and composers’ names, especially in the second programme, may well have been unfamiliar to his Mozarteum audience, while even familiar works such as Mendelssohn’s Auf Flügeln des Gesanges, which opened both programmes, functioning as a kind of motto, and Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, which brought the first evening to a close, appeared in a new and different light when heard in their present context.

The result was certainly not a lieder recital in the customary sense of the term, but a festival concert as it ought to be be, a distinction that it owed not only to the choice of programme and its intelligent structure but also to the way in which the audience was prepared. . . .

The women to whom Kraus refers (as translated in the accompanying booklet by Stewart Spencer) are Melanie Diener and Michelle Breedt, who participated in other such recitals with Hampson at Salzburg. The other composers included in the program are Hans Krása and Viktor Ullmann, two victims of the Holocaust who were also verboten und verbrannt. As much a social event as an artistic one, this recital program functioned at various levels, and its potentially controversial nature at the annual Salzburg Festival was a factor that helped it to succeed.

This recording preserves the recital from 18 August 2005 and provides an excellent overview of the Lieder by a body of proscribed composers. With Mendelssohn’s Auf Flügeln des Gesanges (“On the wings of song”) opening the program, the connotes a conventional Lieder recital through the use of this familiar song that has been part of many such performances since its composition. Just the same Mendelssohn’s Altdeutsches Frühlingslied is another song that transcends the artificial boundaries connected to nationality and politics, but rather communicates the poet— and the composer’s— experience of rebirth. These and other selections of Mendelssohn’s songs evoke the nineteenth century, a time when Mendelssohn would have been known and admired, but hardly forbidden and banned. These songs anchor the recital in the tradition of the German Lied, an element that is wholly part of the culture in which the other composers worked. It was not an idiom for social, religious, or political activity, but rather an artistic milieu that crossed any of those artificial boundaries. This hardly means that prejudice or labeling were unknown. While it may have been less so for Mendelssohn, Mahler faced the anti-Semitic press, and the bias against his Jewish nationality certainly influenced the reception of his music in lifetime and afterward.

With Meyerbeer, the songs represent an unfamiliar side of the composer, who is known best for grand opera. The three selections chosen for this recital show Meyerbeer’s facility with the Lied in two settings of Heine and one of Michael Beer. The first two are somewhat conventional Lieder, but the third, Menschenfeindlich shows a more dramatic and, to a degree ironic, side of Meyerbeer. This song calls for a tight ensemble between the singer and the pianist, and the applause included in the recording demonstrates the audience’s appreciate for this bravura piece. Wit the songs of Zemlinsky that follow, the harmonic idiom is more complicated. Mit Trommeln und Pfeifen, for example, Zemlinsky is a wonderfully colorful setting of Liliencron’s Wundhorn-like text, with modal inflections in the vocal line that underscore the sung text. Of Schoenberg’s Lieder, the setting of Viktor Klemperer’s verse in Der verlorene Haufen is highly evocative, and its proximity to Pierrot lunaire emerges in the passages of Sprechstimme and the pointillistic writing in the piano that underscores the vocal line in other places. Schoenberg’s proximity to Mahler and, by extension, the nineteenth-century Lied tradition may be found in his more conventional setting Wie Georg von Frundsberg von sich selber sang (“Mein Fleiß und Müh ich nie hab’ gespart”), with its text from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

The modernism that Schoenberg expressed in his songs is part of the idiom that Alban Berg adopted for his own style, and in so doing both created music that eventually became associated with artistic decadence. It is possible to hear Berg’s challenges to convention in even the early songs included in this recital, with a piece like Schlummerlose Nächte poised keenly between traditional structure and turn-of-the-century innovation. Other Lieder are, perhaps, less experimental, with the fine examples from the young composer Erich Zeisl being a bit anachronistic. Mahler has the final word with this set of five Rückert-Lieder found at the close. Four of the songs were on the program, with the last, Liebst du um Schönheit offered as a Zugabe, an encore.

This recording preserves essentially all of Hampson’s performances of this important part of the 2005 Salzburg Festival. It is no surprise to find Hampson balancing the attention to the lines of text with the execution of the musical line and never at the expense of one over the other. His phrasing of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder is exemplary, with the comfortable ensemble with Rieger apparent on those pieces and throughout the recording. It is a fine contrbituion on various counts, with the sometimes infrequently performed literature here executed masterfully. The focus of the recital itself merits attention for its supra-musical motivation whcih, in this live recording were hardly lost on the audience. The overall quality of the reproduction is fine, and while some of the audience and stage sounds sometimes intrude on several selections, such details contribute the sense of immediacy that the audience itself experienced. While music that was forbidden and banned by the Third Reich has been the subject of various books and articles, as well as London’s series of recordings labeled “Entartete Musik”— proscribed music— this concise exploration of the subject speaks volumes.

James Zychowicz

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):