Recently in Recordings
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
Since his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1971, conductor James Levine has come to represent the house’s commitment to artistic excellence — reliable, professional, and immaculately presented.
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