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
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.