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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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
06 Sep 2007
Among the available videos of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, the recently released DVD of the live broadcast from 16 February 1980 stands out for capturing the exciting of an all-star international cast that included the famous Birgit Nilsson in the title role.
For various reasons expressed in the booklet that accompanies the recording, Nilsson had been away from New York for some time, and her return for this performance was a special occasion that culminated in the live broadcast. This DVD reproduces the televised performance that conveys the immediacy of the experience at the Met. While the opening trailer is the same that has been used for other Live from the Met productions, the performance suggests the spontaneity that accompanied Nilsson’s return.
For this performance Levine used one of the Met’s reliable productions, one created by Herbert Graf and which is a conventional way of presenting the opera. The costumes by Rudolf Heinrich reflect the fin-de-siècle opulence in their stylized evocations of ancient Greece, especially in the accoutrements for Klytämnestra. Yet overall, the DVD gives the sense of being at the Met for one of the operas it has done well over the years.
Typical of the Met in 1980, the cast included Leonie Rysanek, who was also part of another video recording of this opera made around the same time that Karl Böhm led. Along with her, Mignon Dunn sang the role of Klytämnestra, with Robert Nagy as her lover Aegisth. Donald McIntyre was Orest, Elektra’s brother and the vehicle of revenge on Klytämnestra for her murder of Agamemnon, their father.
It is a quite competent performance that stands apart from other DVDs because of its single-take as a live broadcast. While some pitch problems occur, they are minor compared to the generally fine and spirited performances of all the principals. Rysanek works well with Nilsson in roles that are comfortable for both singers. As strong as both performers are, their voices are sometimes obscured by the orchestra, which emerges perhaps too strongly in the recording. It is possible to accommodate that imbalance through the fine acting that both of those performers brought to the stage.
Mignon Dunn contributed a suitably imperious quality to the role of Klytämnestra, and with it gave the part the lyrical quality that some performers eschew in deference to readings that can be closer to Sprechstimme. Likewise, Orest requires a heroic sound that must not seem like a caricature, and McIntyre captures the part well. He and the rest of the cast work well with Nilsson in bringing out the dramatic qualities of the music in this signally modern interpretation of the Greek myth. In the end, though, it is Elektra who must elicit the cathartic moment, and Nilsson delivers her part memorably. While her finale dance may not have the visual pathos that comes with the streaks of rain that characterize Böhm’s film, her mimed madness is effective in this live performance.
The disc includes the extensive curtain calls that demonstrate the respect the Met audience expressed for Nilsson and Levine. All of the curtain calls are left in, along with shots of the cast behind the curtain, as they heard the acclaim of the audience, It is particularly impressive to heard the rhythmic applause that started after almost eight minutes of the ovation and brought Nilsson out for a solo bow after twelve minutes. In addition to the opera, the DVD includes bonus tracks of Nilsson singing Isolde’s narrative from Tristan und Isolde, which Nilsson performed at the Met Centennial celebration in 1983. This concert performance of the excerpt is memorable and serves to document further Nilsson’s association with the Met and Levine.
Another excerpt included on this disc is a relatively short tribute that Nilsson gave at the 1996 twenty-fifth anniversary of Levine’s tenure at the Met. In that cut Nilsson alluded to the 1980 production of Elektra and the part it played in her career – she ended her salute to Levine with a solo Walküre call of “Ho-jo-to-ho.” A tribute to Levine, it is a valedictory to a career well sung.
James L. Zychowicz