28 Sep 2007
Allegri “Miserere”; Palestrina “Missa Papae Marcelli”
This is a recording that glories in iconicity.
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” with herself!).
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 twentieth-century France
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.
This is a recording that glories in iconicity.
Few composers are more iconic of time and place than Palestrina, assuredly evoking both Counter-Reformation Rome as well as the ideals of late-sixteenth counterpoint. Similarly, few works will be more iconic of Rome than the “Pope Marcellus Mass” with its strong ties to the Council of Trent, the “Miserere” by Gregorio Allegri, a work closely guarded as a possession of the Sistine Chapel, and the motet (also recorded here) “Tu es Petrus,” the foundational Gospel text for the authority of the papacy. To these icons, we might also add the sense that the Tallis Scholars, now approaching their thirty-fifth year, have also become iconic of the highest levels of modern performance of Renaissance polyphony. And despite their eponymous affinity for the music of Tallis, the Allegri “Miserere” and the “Pope Marcellus Mass” have surely become signature works for the ensemble. So much so that one might wonder why another recording of these works.
Both of these works are well represented in recordings by the Tallis Scholars at various stages in the life of the group. A 1980 recording of both works (released on CD as CDGIM 339) was followed by the 1994 “Live in Rome” recording (CDGIM 994), a concert recording made in the Sistine Chapel to celebrate the restoration of the Michelangelo frescoes. Additionally “The Tallis Scholars Sing Palestrina,” a 2005 release (CDGIM 204), re-issues the “Pope Marcellus Mass.” Director Peter Phillips observes that the Tallis Scholars have sung the “Miserere” over 300 times; no doubt the numbers for the Mass are high, as well. So why another recording of these signature pieces?
In part, the answer may lie in the continual development of the group’s thinking about the pieces. For instance, the “Miserere” here now alternates with a different psalm tone than the traditional second tone, and the last of the two versions on the recording incorporates the exquisite ornamentation of soprano Deborah Roberts, developed over long experience performing the work. (The ornamentation is notated in the liner notes, giving it a fixity somewhat at odds with its nature, but heightening its presence in the production in a concrete way.) And, it must be said, the recording shows the group at the very top of their game. The sound is ravishing, highly focused and full of presence, but at the same time wonderfully lustrous. The singers’ long familiarity with the works has not dimmed the conviction or dynamism of the performances; instead, we hear renditions of remarkable fluency.
A quibble here or there? One wonders at the use of a solo voice to render the psalm tone verses in the Allegri, as psalmodic chanting in this style was traditionally the preserve of the choir. And occasionally one might wish for more variety of volume—much is sung rather full, to the point where fullness itself loses some of its impact. But these quibbles fall by the wayside when one savors the glory of the sound. Do we need another recording of these pieces by the Tallis Scholars? Perhaps not, but this is one that I suspect all will be delighted to have on their shelf—right next to the others!