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

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Opera.be : The Yves Becko Collection
09 Oct 2007

The Yves Becko Collection

This must be one of the most interesting collectors’ collections to have appeared in many a year. Personally I’ve always liked any singer from Fernando De Lucia to Rolando Villazon but I never was tempted to collect shellac and therefore didn’t have to contact Yves Becko.

Opera.be: The Yves Becko Collection

Albers, Arral, Assy, Bergé, Blouse, Boons, Crabbé, Colmant, Decléry, Delvoye, Deschamps-Jehin, Dubois, Farrère, Fontaine, Forgeur, Ghasne, Gilibert, Gilly, Imbart de la Tour, Lasalle, Leblanc, Lefèvre, Lheureux, Maréchal, Mertens, Montfort, Noté, Revel, Saint-Cricq, Soulacroix, Sterkens, Swolfs, van Bosch, van Dijck, Verlet, Ysaÿe.

The koning Boudewijnfoundation 1622 [2CDs]

15 €  Click to buy

Becko was a Walloon engineer, one of the few Walloons able to speak acceptable Dutch, and at the end of his too short life the owner of a magnificent collection of 20.000 shellac records (including extreme rarities on Pathé), lots of cylinders etc. I know several collectors who had to deal with Becko and he was not one to sell cheap or to be generous to other members of the tribe. Anyway his wife and daughter sold the collection in its entirety to De koning Boudewijn (king Baldwin in English and not Baudouin as they always mistakenly call themselves) Foundation which handed the treasure to the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Royal Library) at the Kunstberg in Brussels where appropriate measures will be taken to make it accessible.

Still it is a reality that in the matter of collectors’ records, Foundation and Becko family succeeded in making some decisions which lessen somewhat the pleasure of this important issue. The two CDs contain 60 interesting records and nowhere, not in the liner notes, not on the sleeve, can one find a date. Granted it is not always easy to have an exact date of recording but The Record Collector has proven for almost 60 years that with some research one can come near. This is especially galling as I don’t know who had the brilliant idea of putting all these selections in alphabetical order per singer. Now we get an acoustic followed by an electric followed by a cylinder followed by an acetate etc. Don’t try to look for evolution in the style of singing or the art of recording. The booklet is very luxuriously illustrated with many photographs but the notes themselves are far from interesting. Though a lot of the singers are very obscure, there are no biographical details. The buyer will have to purchase Dick Soper’s ‘Belgian Opera Houses and Singers’ and a complete set of Kutsch-Riemens if he wants some details on the singers. Nevertheless page after page is devoted to Mr. Becko (do we really have to know he liked Tony Poncet ?) and the kind of records he collected. Maybe this kind of non-information was a condition imposed by the family. A small essay on Belgian singers during the shellac days is just an enumeration of names. The koning Boudewijn Foundation is one of the last curiosities pretending that Belgium should stay as it is, denying the huge cleft on every issue between Flemings and Walloons. Therefore the Foundation should take care not to publish an essay that is offensive to one of two peoples. The author, Frédéric Lemmers is constantly referring to translations of songs and arias in Flemish. By now, Mr. Lemmers should finally know and acknowledge that Dutch is the language of Flanders; Flemish being a dialect known from Dunkirk (in France) to Middelburg (in the Netherlands) but not in the former duchy of Brabant where I am living though it is the heart of nowadays Flanders. I can assure Mr. Lemmers that the non-French selections on the CDs are sung in excellent Dutch, understood by everybody from Amsterdam to Brussels. This condescending attitude results in some mistakes as well. There was never a tenor Joseph Sterkens ; it was Jef Sterkens though ‘Joseph’ may well have been written on his birth certificate as he was born during the Walloon colonization of Flanders (nor is there a Joseph Fortuné Verdi, though these are the names on the birth certificate too). The creator of Werther was not Van Dyck but Van Dijck as proven by the tenor’s own signature.

Happily for the American collector, this will pale against the treasures to be found on these CDs. The transfers are excellent, pitched during long hours of work by my friend (a Walloon, would you believe it ?) Georges Cardol. Georges is a teacher of physics and a talented amateur-baritone, using the score, a piano and his gut feeling when pitching. He takes such care that, not being a shellac guy myself, he succeeded in instilling doubts in me when listening to some selections. Normally, I would have pronounced the Valère Blouse a tone too high but knowing Cardol’s care I probably am wrong. Was Blouse Flemish or Walloon ? some will ask. Neither. The producers (Lemmers, Couvreur, Cardol ) sold the idea of these CDs to the Foundation by telling them that it was an overview of Belgian singers and then they picked out recordings of some of the most rare and interesting singers in the Becko collection, a lot of them French.

The CDs start with four very fine recordings by Henri Albers, a Dutch baritone while French singers like Blouse, Deschamps-Jehin, Dubois, Gilibert, Gilly, Imbart, Leblanc, Saint-Cricq etc. are well represented. Therefore this is foremost a collection of singers who sang in the opera houses of Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp and Liège. Of course there are a lot of Flemish and Walloon singers too, not all of them exceptionally talented but represented by recordings which are extremely rare and almost not to be found elsewhere on CD ( exceptions are well known French singers like Soulacroix who is on well pitched “Truesound” but Saint-Cricq and Landouzy are only to be found on notoriously bad “Malibran”.) Several names were completely unknown to me and it doesn’t come as a surprise there are some dull dogs among them (Dectéry: squeezed; Delvoye: great voice but rough style). But with others we are in for a surprise: unknown Dubois who is almost as good as René Verdière; baritone Emiel van Bosch whom I finally can appreciate due to the fine transfers; Jeanne Montfort who made me sit up wit her Vivandière. Other names will be unknown in the States though they still ring a bell in this country but I’m sure every collector will be surprised by the wonderful spinto voice of Claudine Boons, by Madeleine Farrère so much better and less shrill than better known Clara Clairbert. Tenor Charles Fontaine has a whole CD, produced by Georges Cardol for his friends only (lucky me) but deserves to have an issue widely available. I admire the producers for avoiding cliché names like Bovy, Clairbert and especially Ansseau which would make this issue less interesting as they are already well represented on CD. And I admire them for including items by great names, even if the singing is less than great but now at last we can judge for ourselves if we appreciate the dry tone of Georges Imbart de la Tour or Georgette Leblanc. And the creator record of Flemish tenor Ernest van Dijck (“Pourquoi me réveiller” though he actually created Werther in German) proves that his best years were gone but that the voice was ample indeed. For 15 Euros this is a bargain and I hope these CDs will sell well. Take care to ask for the English language version. Welcome is the news that other labels will be allowed to mine the Becko collection too.

Jan Neckers

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):