Recently in Recordings
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
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.
23 Sep 2007
Playing Elizabeth’s Tune
The 2004 DVD "Playing Elizabeth’s Tune," originating in a BBC television production, features concert performances of Byrd’s sacred music sung by the Tallis Scholars along with documentary material treating the composer and his time.
The present CD presents the “concert” material from the BBC television program, and though absent the sights of a candle-lit Tewkesbury Abbey, the sounds are sumptuous, often exquisite, and leave one without any suspicion that anything is “missing.”
The program is a diverse sampling of Byrd’s music, ranging from Latin mass and motet to Anglican anthem and canticle, from dense counterpoint to stunningly beautiful chordal homophony, from celebrative tones to the dark hues of poignant lamentation. Byrd’s music takes the Tallis Scholars only a short jog from their eponymous home base, and to no one’s surprise, they sing this program with the natural confidence and expertise born of decades’ experience. Their performances are alternately suave, alternately animated, and unflaggingly fluent. From an ensemble that has been one of the standard bearers for the modern performance of this repertory, one would expect nothing less.
The Scholars’ sound is distinctively vibrant and free, a tone that is particularly well-suited to exuberant passages, such as arise in the motet “Vigilate” and the “Gloria” and “Credo” from the Mass for Four Voices. The exuberance is exciting and they continue to explore the animated potential of lines with notable flair. The sound also is well-suited to contrapuntal independence of line. However, the lower-voice blend on occasion seems to suffer a bit from the degree of timbral freedom, as in the dark opening of “Ne irascaris,” but softer passages--Sion deserta” in the same motet, for instance--show a warm blendability that surfaces elsewhere, too, as in the moving anthem, “Prevent us, O Lord.”
The text underlay of the vernacular works requires a sensitivity to period pronunciation—a one-syllable Spirit in the “Magnificat” from the Great Service, for example—and these adjustments are rendered with ease here. The ensemble’s Latin, however, persists in being Italianate “church Latin,” and one wonders what so accomplished a group might do with the inflections of sixteenth-century Anglo-Latin as part of their verbal palette.
The program here is admittedly one of “favorites,” most, if not all, well known and well represented in the recorded catalogue. Among favorites, I find “O Lord, Make thy Servant Elizabeth” an irresistible gem, complete with an “Amen” that packs a rose-window’s worth of blossom into just a few measures’ length. The plea at the end of the anthem is that God will grant the Queen a long life; given the beauty of the singing on this recording, one might easily wish the same for those who here sing “Elizabeth’s Tune.” A splendid recording.