Recently in Recordings
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered
and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has
happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by
Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.
This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the
most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100
songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable
artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan
Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles”
This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa
Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The
Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s
Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical
Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their
40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two
settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.
Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according
to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.
Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
24 Jun 2007
ROSSINI: Il Viaggio a Reims
Il Viaggio a Reims was a pièce d’occasion, part of the official tributes to Charles X of France on his coronation in 1825, but unlike most such creations – which tend to dreary platitudes of the Oscar speech variety – Viaggio has a cheeky personality and delicious music from Rossini at the top of his game, music he planned to recycle in subsequent operas – which he did.
arrived in Paris (lured from Naples by a huge stipend), he wanted to convince the powers that be,
from King Charles to the opera-goer in the street, that he was an excellent investment. In fact,
after Charles’s downfall in 1830, he had to sue the next regime to keep his income, and he
stopped writing operas altogether.
Viaggio has no plot to speak of. An inn-full of aristocratic tourists heading for Reims for the
coronation are stranded (no horses) and decide to celebrate the event right where they are. We
follow a series of amorous intrigues combined with political in-jokes – the Russian count
suspects his Polish marchesa, but the Austrian baron (a student of harmony) reconciles these
lovers; the English milord conceals his passion for the Roman chanteuse (that is, the possibility
that Britain might return to Catholicism), and the Parisian cares more about the safety of her
wardrobe than a lover’s doubtful fidelity.
But the stock political one-liners become delicious when turned into Rossini arias and duets.
(Why isn’t this guy writing for Saturday Night Live?) To everyone’s surprise (including, no
doubt, Rossini’s, wherever he is), Viaggio has lately become an international hit – perhaps
because it gives so many singers a chance to shine, however briefly. Its huge number of more or
less equal soloists makes Viaggio ideal for conservatories with bel canto studies – Rossini does
not damage immature voices, as Wagner or Verdi easily may. Too, any Viaggio gives costume
designers opportunities to be as silly as they like, and Mireille Dessingy has gone for it here:
purple stripes, leather dusters, crazy bustles and hats, plaid suits of outlandish hue. Behind the
action, Maestro Gergiev conducts “under cover” in a slouch hat and trench coat.
Though these performances were given at the Châtelet in Paris, the singers hail from the
Academy of Young Singers at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre (aka Kirov), and since singers
from Russia’s many nationalities are nowadays flooding west, we may glimpse here some of the
stars of tomorrow. Gergiev clearly intends to train the next generation to a better feel for Italian
style than Russian singers used to have, and the results are commendable if imperfect: while few
of these youngsters screech or whine as older Russians often did, and their fioritura is often
superb, many of them run out of breath before their melodies do, and bark rather than conclude
the line musically. Most of them sing Italian clearly, though, all of them are agile comic actors,
and the Parisian audience is appreciative.
The most attractive and able voices belong to Anna Kiknadze as the Polish marchesa, whose low
mezzo, a ripe Rossini sound, resembles Borodina's, Irma Guigolachvili’s gracious lyric
soprano as Corinna, Larissa Youdina’s flamboyant coloratura as the fashion-conscious Parisian,
Anastasia Belyaeva’s pleasing light soprano as the chic innkeeper, Daniil Shtoda’s exciting but
sometimes breathless tenor as the jealous Russian, and Alexei Safiouline’s castanetted “Spanish”