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

Karol Szymanowski: Songs of a Fairy-tale Princess; Harnasie; Love Songs of Hafiz.
04 Jul 2007

SZYMANOWSKI: Songs of a Fairy-tale Princess; Harnasie; Love Songs of Hafiz

The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is one of more engaging composers of the early twentieth century.

Karol Szymanowski: Songs of a Fairy-tale Princess; Harnasie; Love Songs of Hafiz.

Iwona Sobotka, soprano; Timothy Robinson, tenor; Katarina Karnéus, mezzo soprano; City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle (cond.)

EMI Classics 0094636443522 [CD]

$13.99  Click to buy

While he wrote in several genres, the works that involve orchestra are evocatively colorful and those with voice quite soaring. This single CD includes some of Szymanowski’s finest works, two orchestral song cycles, the three Songs of a Fairy-tale Princess, op. 31 (1933), and the Love Songs of Hafiz, op. 26 (1914), along with the ballet-pantomime Harnasie, op. 55 (1935). The latter work, regarded as one of his masterpieces, resembles more a cantata with its use of chorus and solo tenor. Conceived in two parts, Harnasie is an atmospheric piece that deals with the abduction of a bride from her wedding by the robber Harnaś and his eventual taking her as his not unwilling bride. The story is set in the Tatra area of Poland, and as such makes use of evoking local color through melodic and thematic motifs and also its sensitive and highly colorful orchestration. It is a tour-de-force that is highly dramatic when executed with the precision that Sir Simon Rattle brings to this performance.

The first part of the work sets the stage for the action, with the various pieces establishing the sonic and timbral idiom Szymanowski conceived for the work. It is more symphonic than the second part, which opens with a striking depiction of the Polish wedding scene. That scene makes use of choral forces that capture the mood well in this particular recording. The stark open sonorities suggest the kind of eastern European ritual that Stravinsky captured in more sustained fashion in Les noces. Harnasie is a different kind of work, and its musical narrative makes use of other impulses in its structure. The entrance of the bride, for example, brings into the wedding scene elements from the first part of the work, and the stylized songs and dances that follow bring make use of elements related to Polish culture. Rattle allows these elements to emerge clearly and without artifice. He brings to the score a sense of narrative that creates the seamless quality Szymanowski intended in the score. The sometimes unique scorings are articulated clearly and underscore the melodic and rhythmic ideas that Szymanowski develops in this complex yet accessible work.

With the final scene, the solo tenor voice that belongs to the character of the robbers’ leader Harnaś poses the question that brings about the dénouement. This brief number is the critical element that must strike the right tone in its function as the raison d’être for the entire piece. Harnaś asks the bride whether she wants to see him or another, presumably the intended groom (“Powiydyzze mi powiydz / do uska prawego, / cy mnie rada widzis, cy kogo innegi?”) and, in this single piece, Szymanowski brings the work to its dramatic conclusion. Robinson’s interpretation is moving, with the florid line expressing the passionate side of the Polish robber.

The two orchestral song cycles included with Harnasie are equally masterful works. The first, the Songs for a Fairy-tale Princess are three highly ornate works that demand the kind of accomplished coloratura that Iwona Sobotka brings to this performance. The topics of the songs are hardly exotic: “The Lonely Moon,” “The Nightingale,” and “Dance.” Yet the music conveys an exotic quality in the elaborate, almost improvisatory-sounding lines. In contrast to the extended harmonic idiom Szymanowski used earlier in his career, the music seems related to impressionism and more Eastern-influenced melodic patterns. While its underlying structure is diatonic, the details suggest more remote musical associations.

In a similar way the Love Songs of Hafiz belong to the same world as the Songs for a Fair-Tale Princess. The texts of the Love Songs of Hafiz are derived from the interpretations of Persian verse by the German poet Hans Bethge, the author Die chinesische Flöte, which Mahler used for his orchestral song cycle Das Lied von der Erde. In these Polish translations of the Bethge’s German verse, nothing is lost in the linguistic shifts. These are poems that bring the Eastern world to West through the brilliant musical mind of Szymanowski. More adventurous, perhaps, such the post-Romanticism of Zemlinsky’s Lyrische Symphonie, Szymanowski’s set of eight songs are a profoundly moving work. Rattle brings a fine interpretation to this recording, which benefits from the elegant voice of Katarina Karnéus. Her low range is burnished and she offers an even tone in the passages that require a higher and–at times–sustained tessitura. Unquestionably lyric in approaching this piece, Karnéus also demonstates her capacity for dramatic expression in interpreting this work.

Those who may not be familiar withSzymanowski’s music will find this recording to be an excellent introduction to his work. The performers with the City of Birmingham Symphony and Chorus offer are sensitive to his style, and with this choice of pieces. Rattle offers a masterful interpretation to some of Szymanowski’s finest compositions. The three works were were recorded in studio and date from three sessions, Harnasie from 23-25 October 2002, the Love Songs from Hafiz from 30 June 2004, and the Songs of a Fairy-tale Princess from 20 March 2006. While some may be familiar with these works through earlier recordings, these recent ones bear attention for the nuanced expression they bring to the scores. It is easy to recommend this recording not only for the choice of music included, but also its impressive execution.

James L. 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):