Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Anton Bruckner: Symphony no. 5
28 Aug 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 5

Recorded live at the Stiftsbasilika, St. Florian (Austrian) on 12 and 13 September 2006, this DVD offers a special performance of the famous Cleveland Orchestra outside its home at Severance Hall.

Anton Bruckner: Symphony no. 5

The Cleveland Orchestra, Franz Welser-Möst, conductor.

Euroarts 2055918 [DVD]

$22.99  Click to buy

Instead, it is a rare performance from the monastery town of St. Florian, a site long associated with Bruckner's career. Compiled from two concerts, the recording captures a sense of the live performance and the enthusiasm of the audience for this fine American ensemble.

This is a fine performance of mature work by Bruckner. Perhaps known less than Fourth, Seventh, or Eighth Symphonies, it is nonetheless worth hearing in concert, and this DVD gives a good sense of that venue. Welser-Möst demonstrates a fine command of the score. His tempos tend to be somewhat brisk, but they contribute to the drive he has given to this performance. The first movement is effective with this approach, with each of theme groups clearly audible and the relationships between the various sections are evident. If he lingers at times at cadences, it is to allow a musical thought to finish. Elsewhere, as in the Scherzo, Welser-Möst approached the textures as if it were a work by Mendelssohn. Such a deft approach helps to allow the character of the music to emerge from the music itself, rather than a superimposed Brucknerian gravity that some conducts might use. The Finale is convincing, and Welser-Möst's pacing is a parallel to that which he used in the first movement. It is useful to watch Welser-Möst's hands in this movement, as he relies more on the physical gestures than the baton to give shape to the structure.

A key to appreciating this performance may be found in a bonus track, an interview with Welser-Möst in which the conductor discusses his affinities with Bruckner's music. He talks about Bruckner's style and mentions the approaches to performing the composer's music, and in the course of doing so points to the various styles that exist among several European orchestras. In the course of this discussion, Welser-Möst mentions the relatively leaner sound of the Cleveland Orchestra for this repertoire, an element that sets it apart, especially when it comes to some of the more contrapuntal textures that occur in some passages of Bruckner's works, including the Fifth Symphony. In taking the idea of a leaner sound further, it should not be equated to the somewhat pejorative description of a thin sound or the result of weaker players. Rather, the Cleveland Orchestra under Welser-Möst's leadership offers a more transparent timbre in this performance of Bruckner's Fifth Symphony, a quality that may be at odds with the acoustics of the basilica of St. Florian, which has a lively resonance. At times, though, words fail, with adjectives connected to size and mass can, at best, only approximate the musical effect.

As to the sound itself, the range of volume is relatively wide, with the introduction of the first movement almost inaudible compared to what follows, especially with the almost thunderous sound of the Brass. It is a stark contrast that may be reinforced by the acoustics of the basilica itself. As the movement continues the amplitude seems more balanced, with the differences less profound. That kind of lean sound that Welser-Möst discussed does allow for clarity in this performance, and that element contributes to the woodwind timbres in the first movement. The recording seems to have been made close to the orchestra, though, since the resonance of this Baroque church does not emerge readily in the recording. At times some of the long shots from the rear of the basilica suggest the warm acoustic that can result in such structures, but throughout the sound seems like that which results from a studio.

This DVD includes some external views of the monastery and a number of shots within the basilica itself. Renovated in recent years, the Baroque architecture and ornamentation seems at odds with the Romantic style of the music, but it is a place that Bruckner knew well. Bruckner would have associated organ and choral music with St. Florian, with symphonic performances intended for an also executed elsewhere, and so there is a bit of a disconnection between the locus of this recording and the work performed. Nevertheless, the acoustics are remarkably fine on the recording, which has some of the resonance that occurs with some studio ambiance. While St. Florian may not be a point of arrival for symphony orchestras to perform musical works, the event reinforces the connection between St. Florian and Bruckner, while also serving as a kind of souvenir of the Cleveland Orchestra's 2006 visit to Europe, an event which Welser-Möst mentioned in his interview.

James 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):