Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
18 Nov 2007
BRUCKNER: Symphonie no. 7
Released as part of Orfeo’s series entitled Festspiel Dokumente, this recording makes available on CD the concert performance at the Salzburg Festival of Anton Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony by the Vienna Philharmonic that Hans Knappertsbusch conducted on 30 August 1949.
The mono recording was digitally remastered for this 2006 release, and offers a finely detailed sound that conveys well the memorable performance that allowed it to be part of this impressive series. Derived, Gottfried Kraus mentioned in the liner notes, from the original tapes in the archive of Austrian Radio, this is a legendary performance that represents both the level of music making at the Salzburg Festival and the impressive leadership Knappertsbusch gave at the podium.
While some hall noises emerge infrequently in the recording, the sound is almost devoid of interruptions that would mar the intensity of the performance. The recording shows the Vienna Philharmonic’s precision and evenness of tone. The strings are nicely balanced, with fine ensemble; the brass and winds match the sound without overpowering it, and while that may be assisted by the placement of the microphones, their sound is clean and incisive and, in general, always controlled. This mature work of Bruckner is known to audiences and familiar to performers, yet effective performances like this benefit from the sensitive ensemble a professional orchestra like the Vienna Philharmonic offer.
Knappertsbusch seems to have had the rapport with the Vienna Philharmonic that allowed this work to emerge in an almost perfect rendering of Bruckner’s score. The initial tempos for each movement are appropriate, and in following the tempo markings, nothing is ever out of place. Nuances of tempo and pacing shape the performance, in the way that practiced singers can color their tone with vibrato. The effects of tempo shifts and tempo modulations support the music well.
At times the fullness of the sound creates an intensity that would be rendered better by the stereophonic approach to recording. It conveys, too, the hall in Salzburg, which is also part of the legacy represented by this recording. The intensity of the first two movements is matched by the spirited treatment of the Scherzo in the third, thus, with the weight of the Symphony pitched toward the first half of the work. The sometimes lighter style of playing in the Scherzo accentuates the otherwise intensive sounds the Knappertsbusch elicited earlier in the work. With the Scherzo, Knappertsbusch captures some elements that sound, in his hands, as playful as some of the lighter movements found in Dvorak’s symphonies. With the Finale, though, the fragmentary ideas with which the movement opens also represent a contrast to the opening movement of the Seventh Symphony, and in rendering it this manner, Knappertsbusch serves Bruckner’s score well. The lyrical elements of this movement emerge almost effortlessly, and thus become a foil for the more intensive motives and thematic groups that characterize the concluding sections of the Finale. Staged in this way, the Finale is as impressive as the opening movement, with an impassioned intensity that makes this performance as memorable as the enthusiastic applause found at the end of the recording.
This release of Bruckner’s Seventh from over half a century ago is a fine addition to the series of Festspiel Dokumente, and it preserves one of the outstanding performances from the Salzburg Festival from the years just after World War II. The fine sound quality gives the impression of a studio recording, and the overall ambiance creates a strong impression. Most of all Knappertsbusch’s interpretation stands out for its clear and effective presentation of Bruckner’s score.
James L. Zychowicz