Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

New Hans Zender Schubert Winterreise - Julian Prégardien

Hans Zender's Schuberts Winterreise is now established in the canon, but this recording with Julian Prégardien and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie conducted by Robert Reimer is one of the most striking. Proof that new work, like good wine, needs to settle and mature to reveal its riches.

Magic Lantern Tales: darkness, disorientation and delight from Cheryl Frances-Hoad

“It produces Effects not only very delightful, but to such as know the contrivance, very wonderful; so that Spectators, not well versed in Opticks, that could see the various Apparitions and Disappearances, the Motions, Changes and Actions, that may this way be presented, would readily believe them super-natural and miraculous.”

Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony — Martyn Brabbins BBCSO

From Hyperion, an excellent new Ralph Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony with Martyn Brabbins conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus, Elizabeth Llewellyn and Marcus Farnsworth soloists. This follows on from Brabbins’s highly acclaimed Vaughan Williams Symphony no 2 "London" in the rarely heard 1920 version.

Superlative Lohengrin from Bayreuth, 1967

The names of Belfast-born soprano Heather Harper and Kansas-born tenor James King may not resonate for younger music lovers, but they sure do for folks my age. Harper was the glowing, nimble soprano in Colin Davis’s renowned 1966 recording of Handel’s Messiah and in Davis’s top-flight recording (ca. 1978) of Britten’s Peter Grimes, featuring Jon Vickers.

Classical Opera: Bastien und Bastienne on Signum Classics

Pride and Prejudice, North and South, Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing: literary fiction and drama are strewn with dissembling lovers who display differing degrees of Machiavellian sharpness in matters of amatory strategy. But, there is an artless ingenuousness about Bastien and Bastienne, the eponymous pastoral protagonists of Mozart’s 1768 opera, who pretend not to love in order to seal their shared romantic destiny, but who require a hefty dose of the ‘Magician’ Colas’s conjuring/charlatanry in order to avoid a future of lonely singledom.

A Stunning Semiramide from Opera Rara

In early October 1822, Gioachino Rossini summoned the librettist Gaetano Rossi to a villa (owned by his wife, the soprano Isabella Colbran) in Castenaso, just outside Bologna. Their project: to work on a new opera, which would be premiered during the Carnival in Venice on 3rd February the following year, based on the legend of Queen Semiramide.

Elgar Orchestral Songs - SOMM

Edward Elgar's Sea Pictures are extremely well-known, but many others are also worth hearing. From SOMM recordings, specialists in British repertoire, comes this interesting new collection of other Elgar orchestral songs, sponsored by the Elgar Society.

Beyond Gilbert and Sullivan: Edward Loder’s Raymond and Agnes and the Apotheosis of English Romantic Opera

Mention ‘nineteenth-century English opera’ to most people, and they will immediately think ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’. If they really know their Gilbert and Sullivan, they’ll probably remember that Sullivan always wanted to compose more serious operas, but that Gilbert resisted this, believing they should ‘stick to their last’: light, comic, tuneful satire.

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 6 / Piano Quartet.
09 Oct 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 6 / Piano Quartet

With its fine engineering, the rich score of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony and the superb playing of the Philadelpha Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach emerge well in this recently released recording.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 6 / Piano Quartet.

The Philadelphia Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach, conductor.

Ondine ODE 1084-5D [2SACDs]

$23.49  Click to buy

As much as it can be easier to apprehend a live performance in a DVD of a concert, the sonics of this Ondine recording convey a sense of immediacy in this reading of Mahler’s complex and demanding score. The recording has a fine depth of sound that allows the nuances of Mahler’s scoring to emerge clearly and with the attention to detail that Eschenbach brings to the performance.

When it comes to the interpretation of the work, Eschenbach can be at times overtly demonstrative. Near the opening of the first movement Mahler moves from the first theme to the second, more lyrical one, the transition to the second theme seems to be paced a bit cautiously, and this almost anticipates the slower tempo in advance. It is as if the score were intended for the stage, where the dramatic elements must at times be prominent. Such a perspective is hardly foreign to Mahler’s music, which can be effectively dramatic, and suffers when performed in a routine or overly affected manner. That stated, it is not entirely unwelcome to hear the kind differentiation that Eschenbach offers later in the movement, since such an approach is useful when it comes to distinguishing the elements in this score that some criticize for being less individualized than the content of the works surrounding it, that is, the Fifth and Seventh Symphonies. Perhaps it is a misnomer to treat these three works as a unit, when the are distinct compositions that deserve to be treated on their own terms. For these and other reasons Eschenbach’s interpretation also stands apart from those of other conductors. Yet it remains useful to refer to some of the fine earlier recordings of the Sixth Symphony, like the one conducted by George Szell, whose focus on the formal aspects of the score creates a different effect than Eschenbach’s.

With the second movement, in this performance, the Scherzo, Eschenbach starts with almost the same tempo as the first movement. As a result, the details are clear from the start, and a sense of delicacy characterizes the music. This stands apart from performances of the Scherzo that are more driven and result in a harsher style of playing. The appoggiatura works well with Eschenbach, because he does not overemphasize it, and the timpani strokes that color the theme later in the movement do not predominate when they occur. This movement shows an exemplary reading on the part of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which benefits from a strong sense of ensemble to make the score seem to emerge natural from the group.

Eschenbach chose to follow the Scherzo with the Andante, and such a position is contrary to recent thought on the movement order of this work. Mahler originally intended the inner movements of the Sixth Symphony to occur in the order Eschenbach used, but Mahler reversed them in the revised edition of the work and in all the performances he conducted. It would seem that his final thoughts on the order would be those, but the critical edition that was published in the early 1960s and treated as authoritative for a generation of musicians had the inner movements in the original order. The decision that the editor, Erwin Ratz made in presenting the work in this fashion has become controversial, and it raises questions about the disposition of Mahler’s music a century after his death. With the intention of the Mahler Gesamtausgabe to present Mahler’s work in editions based on the principle of the Ausgabe letzter Hand or, in some cases, Ausgabe letzter Fassung, it is important to vett the sources used so that the sources have musical credence. In the case of the critical edition, the materials used stand out for the inclusion of a telegram from the composer’s widow years later among otherwise conventional musical sources. Nevertheless, a new edition of this work in its ultimate form has been announced, and it will supersede Ratz’s score, and with that publication, it may reduce the various options conductors have recently taken upon themselves to use in performing Mahler’s score.

With Eschenbach’s decision to place the slow movement before the Finale, the result offers a noticeable contrast between the Scherzo and the Finale, and it certainly accentuates the dramatic aspects of this recording. Yet with the Finale found on the second of two CDs, the transition is not as immediate as if it occurred as the next track or on a single CD. In terms of the interpretation, though, the clarity of Eschenbach’s approach to the entire work is found in the slow movement, with the extended melodic lines that move from one instrument to another quite apparent. If the latter part of the slow movement is somewhat hesitant, such lingering on various sonorities is not without interest for the fine sonorities the Philadelphia Orchestra delivers. By the end of the movement, the sense of timelessness pervades the performance, without some of the tautness that occurs with other readings of the score.

The Finale brings the listener back to the milieu of the first movement, and Eschenbach delivers a straightforward interpretation of the movement. On this recording the sonics reinforce the various orchestral effects that Mahler used to support the musical structure. The telling point for some can be the coda, which benefits from understatement, so that the sonorities act hand-in-glove with the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic ideas, all fine-tuned by the articulations – the resulting effect is unique in orchestral literature.

With a single movement placed on the second CD, it is useful to find an additional work included with this recording. In this case, the selection of Mahler’s youthful Piano Quartet is excellent, since it shares the same tonality as the Sixth Symphony. While other recordings of this fragmentary chamber work exist, the polish and élan that is part of this performance is laudable, and those unfamiliar with the Piano Quartet benefit from this fine reading of this early work by the youthful Mahler.

James L. Zychowicz
Madison, Wisconsin

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):