Recently in Recordings
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.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
16 Sep 2007
Hector Berlioz: Te Deum, op. 22
Often overshadowed by its composer's Requiem, the Te Deum, Op. 22 (1849) by Hector Berlioz deserves attention for its own merits, and this recent release by Hänssler in its series of live recordings of the Staatskapelle Dresden is a solid reading of this work.
Known for his famous cycle of Berlioz's works on for Philips, Sir Colin Davis led a focused performances of the Te Deum on 3 and 4 October 1998 in Kreuzkirche, Dresden, and this recording is derived from those concerts, which involved several choruses, including the Dresden State Opera Chorus, Dresden Symphonie Chorus, Dresden Singakademie, the Dreden Philharmonic Children's Chorus, and the Dresden State Opera Children's Chorus, as well as tenor soloist Neill Stuart, and organist Hans-Dieter Schöne.
In setting the Te Deum, Berlioz used a multi-movement structure to emphasize the various nuances of the text that simultaneously suggest a symphonic approach to the work. The opening "Te Deum" is a majestic movement that anticipates the grandeur familiar to modern audiences in the first movement of Mahler's Eighth Symphony. In the "Te Deum" movement Berlioz arrives at the sonic splendor fitting to a text that addresses the Deity directly. Organ, chorus. and orchestra work together to create a massed sound in which the textures serve to underscore the orchestration and voicing of the individual forces involved. After such a beginning, the "Tibi omnes" section in the second movement is contrastingly meditative in character, like the slow movement of a symphony. Its controlled expressed demonstrates' Berlioz's ability to achieve an effective mood with much smaller forces and to sustain the mood in underscoring the text.
While the organ is heard at various places throughout the Te Deum, it is prominent in the third section, the "Dignare," and this recording captures its sound well. The blend between the chorus and organ is nicely balanced, with the instrument supporting the voices without overshadowing them. Similarly, the tenor, Neill Stuart, has an extended solo part in the penultimate movement, "Te ergo quaesumus," and the interplay between the solo voice and orchestra or, variously, with chorus, emerges clearly to show Stuart's fine tone. Such clarity is never compromised in the tutti movements, the first, fourth, and final ones, in which the entire forces join in the sometimes complex textures Berlioz used for those texts. The sound is evenly reliable, as one would expect from a recording made in a studio. This is all the more admirable for recordings made live and also challenged by the special circumstances of performing in a church.
Moreover, Colin Davis brought his deft approach to Berlioz's music to these performances, and the recording shows the focus that he can give this work. His tempos are clear and always allow the text to be heard clearly, including those massive places where all the choruses must come together in this paean to the Deity. The balance between the orchestra, which alternately supports and comments on the vocal music, is laudable. This is a fine recording of a work by Berlioz that requires such a thoughtful approach to bring all its components together convincingly.
This recording also includes a performance, presumably from the same concerts, of Mozart's Kyrie, K. 341, which receives an equally fine reading here. Taken together, the two works are a fine contribution to the ongoing series of live recordings of the Staatskapelle Dresden led by Sir Colin Davis. As such, they preserve some fine performances and also make them available to a wider audience through their availability on CD.
James L. Zychowicz