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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.
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.
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