Recently in Recordings
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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
24 Jun 2007
Sacred Music from Notre-Dame Cathedral
In charting the history of music in the West, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Paris loom large as a golden age of innovative polyphony, a golden age that is much the fruits of two composers, Leoninus and Perotinus.
Their famous magnus liber organi—the great book of
organum—preserves polyphonic settings of responsorial chants, works that define and establish
Gothic sound much as the cathedral in which they were sung, Notre Dame in Paris, defines and
establishes our notions of Gothic space.
Tonus Peregrinus offers three of the most substantial Notre Dame works—the two-voice
Viderunt by Leoninus and the four-voice Viderunt and Sederunt by Perotinus. Pitts divides his
ensemble into lower- and upper-ranged forces, and the opportunity to hear this repertory in both
ranges is a welome one. In the main, these forces remain discrete and the polyphony is
performed appropriately by soloists. In one instance, however—at the end of the two-voiced
Viderunt—Pitts combines the registers. The octave doubling in itself is not problematic, but in
that the doubling requires transforming a solo line into a choral one, there is a loss of
responsiveness and flexibility in the process, and that is a loss, albeit only a momentary one.
The performances of these large-scaled organa are otherwise impressive. In the discantus
sections—the sections where the notes of all the parts move together in rhythmic pattern—Pitts
allows the music to unfold at a congenially leisurely pace. This contrast to many modern
performances allows singer and listener alike to dwell in the time rather than to push the time
ahead; the more contemplative turn is an attractive one. In the solo sections, Richard Eteson
deserves special mention for his wonderfully contoured sense of both individual notes and
phrase. Similarly, Rebecca Hickey’s monophonic conductus, Beata viscera, is rapturous,
expressive, and exquisite, a memorable opening to the whole program.
The program is one that shows the signs of special care in its construction, for it is obvious that
Pitts wants to demonstrate historical development here. For instance, the two-voiced organal
setting of Viderunt is followed by substitute clausulae and a motet on part of its foundational
chant. The clausulae are short sections of a minute or less, whose purpose in the program is
surely instructive, rather than aesthetic. And these are followed in turn by the four-voice setting
of the same chant. Thus, in large part, the program is showing a notable variety of ways of
treating the same pre-existent melody, and this variety developed within the school of Notre
Dame. In a similar vein, Pitts remains instructive with the inclusion of a psalm whose twenty
verses are sung in different intervallic configurations to demonstrate the range of possibilities
described in the ninth-century treatise, the Scholia enchiriadis, famous for being among the first
theoretical sources to describe polyphony. It is an interesting pedagogical aside in the program,
but one that does not distract from the splendid singing of the large-scale pieces.
The ensemble’s use of Roman Latin pronunciation is curious, and one might have welcomed
their sonic palette being extended and enriched with period French pronunciation. This,
however, is but a small quibble; the recording is impressive.