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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.
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.
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.