Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
09 Oct 2007
I Hear American Singing
Recorded in August 2001 at the Salzburg Festival, less than a month before the tragic events of 11 September, the presentation of songs and readings of music by American composers and texts by American authors seems aimed at a different world. Without venturing into political or social dimensions of the event, the concept of America in August 2001 suggested at times a sense of being impermeable, if not invincible.
America carried the banner for the human experience of the modern world, with the angular optimism of Walt Whitman’s verse that emerged in part from a similarly embattled time. Yet in presenting this recital the baritone Thomas Hampson used the opportunity to explore literature that is rarely heard in concert and less often preserved in recordings of this quality.
The fifty selections presented in I Hear America Singing were given in two recitals and are organized in this recording into discrete sections with the titles “Early Voices of America,” “Walt Whitman Recognized from Afar,” “American Poets Heard in America,” and “Walt Whitman at Home” on the first CD ; and “Drei Hymnen von Walt Whitman,” “Lieder aus dem Schwarzen Amerika,” “Lieder aus text von Emily Dickinson,” “Musical Voices from American,” and “Verboten und verbannt.” (The latter section is the name of another fine collection of vocal music with which Hampson was involved.) The program includes settings by such composers as Edward MacDowell (1860-1908), Charles Loeffler (1861-1935), and Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920), as well as European composers who took inspiration in American verse, including Frank Bridge (1879-1941), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1957), Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968).
As to the poets, some are such enduring figures as Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes, while others are remembered more for their prose, as is the case with William Dean Howells and Herman Melville. Yet it is of interest to know that verse by Tennessee Williams was set by the polymath Paul Bowles (1910-1999) in his Blue Mountain Ballads, a seldom cycle seldom heard and performed convincingly by Hampson in this recording. The challenge of setting such strong writers as Whitman and Dickinson is to avoid introducing musical elements that detract from the rhythm and intonation in their texts, and the listener can determine how effective the various composers are in this regard. Some composers resorted to melodrama, as is the case with Frédéric Louis Ritter (1834-1891) in his Dirge for Two Veterans, a piece with cliché elements that Hampson handles well in his straightforward reading of the work.
While it is easy to praise some of the more famous composers, like Vaughan Williams and Hindemith, the value of this collection is in the range of composers represented. Many of the figures may be, for some listeners, names on a list whose music is not immediately familiar. Thus, in addition to individuals like Bowles, it is useful to hear works by such fine composers as Hugo Weisgall (1912-1997), Henry Thacker Burleigh (1886-1949), Ernst Bacon (1989-1990), and others included in this recital program. In addition, the familiar has its place, with the selections from the music of Stephen Foster (1826-1864) and John Jacob Niles contributing an almost iconic sense to this recording. By no means encyclopedic in presenting American song, some composers, like Copland, Blitzstein, and Bernstein are notably absent, but their vocal works are known well enough through various recordings. Nevertheless, the settings of e. e. cummings’ poetry by Blitzstein come to mind, as an American literary voice who stands with Whitman and Dickinson for a highly individual and musical style. At the same time the selections in this recording also call to mind the songs of other contemporary composers, like William Bolcom, who represent other American voices.
As to the performances themselves, the dynamic of the live recital emerges effectively in this recording, which includes some spoken passages by Hampson. His delivery is solid and deliberate, his phrasing well-thought and insightful. In rendering a range of pieces by a variety of composers, Hampson offers some persuasive interpretations that both accompanists support well. His diction contributes to the interpretations of the songs, with readings that are clear enough to preclude consulting the texts that accompany the CDs, as one expects of a performer of Hampson’s caliber. The contribution of Hampson and his associations in I Hear America Singing certainly opens the door for further explorations of the rich poetic and musical traditions that will allow other performers and their audiences to enjoy the musical creativity of generations of artists.
James L. Zychowicz