Recently in Recordings
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?
Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity.
Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.
Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a
record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation.
Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and
Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma.
Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.
16 Sep 2007
SCHEIDT: Ludi Musici
The courtly instrumental music of the Halle composer, Samuel Scheidt, is preserved in the printed collection "Ludi musici" (1620), giving congenial suggestion of both the richness of the court practice and the virtuosic abilities of the ensemble players there, including the cornettist, Zacharias Härtel.
The collection features canzonas—instrumental works in the style of popular song, here often based on well-known melodies like “Est-ce Mars?”—and dances, some of which have complexity and programmatic content enough to set them apart from the more work-a-day variety.
The venerable French cornett and trombone ensemble, Les Sacqueboutiers, offer in this recording a well-chosen selection from the collection, and they do so with an eye to variety. The pieces themselves, though in a language that is somewhat generic, are sparked with elaborate variations and compelling metrical shifts. And additionally, some pieces represent more developed versions of themes put forth in other pieces. To this intrinsic variety Les Sacqueboutiers adds the spice of percussion, plucked strings and organ, and frequent reduction of textures—one dance, for instance becomes an elegant solo for trombone—all towards nurturing this aesthetic of variety.
The performances are highly accomplished with stunningly pure intonation, beautifully contoured phrases and shapely individual notes, and in the cornetts a particularly liquid articulation. In the sense of shaping, the recording recalls and compares well with the earlier performances of Jordi Savall and Hesperion XX (EMI Reflex 1C 065 30 943 Q ; CD re-release EMI CDM 7 63067 2 ), a recording that set the standard high for this repertory and a recording on which Jean-Pierre Canihac, one of the founding directors of Les Sacqueboutiers, took part. The pedigree is gratifyingly apparent.
In some of the pieces Scheidt aims at a high degree of dynamism. The Paduan VI, for instance, begins with high elegance—a quality that the ensemble renders with an irresistible sense of swoon—that eventually gives was to spirited figuration. The players handle the figuration here and in other intricate examples with flair and seeming ease, but more impressive is the sensitivity to the dynamism itself, the notion that things grow and blossom forth.
Some will wish for a more diverse ensemble, missing the juxtaposition of strings and winds that is so much a part of the Savall recording and also the recent recording by Roland Wilson and Musica fiata (cpo 777 013-2). And occasionally here the percussion may seem a tad too exotic in its patterns. But, in the end, Les Sacqueboutiers offers an engaging reading of a repertory that is foundational to their core instrumentation. The early baroque wind band repertory is graced with these pieces, and we are similarly graced by the excellent performance here.