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A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

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. In recent days,

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

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” with herself!).

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

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.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

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.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

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.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

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’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

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.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

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 Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

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.

Amore e Tormento

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.’ 



Siente Me: Popular Avenues
16 Nov 2007

Gruberova on Nightingale Classics

Edita Gruberova’s North American fans, who can only hold onto dim hopes that someday the European superstar will return to these shores, can always seek to sate their desire for her artistry by picking up the latest CD from Nightingale Classics.

Siente Me: Popular Avenues

Edita Gruberova, soprano, et al.

Nightingale Classics NC 8254162 [CD]

$14.99  Click to buy

This label focuses on Gruberova, and has now reached the stage of issuing the “Edita Gruberova Edition,” which seems to be themed collections of highlights from previous recordings.

Edition 3, Siente Me, bears the subtitle “popular avenues.” Some of the chestnuts here are pieces one would expect from Gruberova, including a flamboyant “Bell Song” from Delibes’s Lakme and the high-spirited “Ah! Je veux vivre” from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. Somewhat less expectedly, Gruberova does very well by two of Puccini’s greatest hits for soprano, “O mio babbino caro” and “Ch’il bel sogno di Doretta.” The latter, exquisite performance makes one wonder if Gruberova ever attempted La Rondine on stage.

Although by no means a native speaker of English, Gruberova does a decent job with Bernstein’s “Glitter and be gay.” The listener won’t catch very word, but she seems to get the humor and certainly has the technique to deal easily with the challenges the music poses. This disc ends with two pieces of Euro-pop composed by one Gunnar Graewert. On one hand, for many people these synth-heavy but lightweight songs will seem out of place for Gruberova. On the other hand, she doesn’t sound so nearly out of her element as, for example, Kiri te Kanawa does on the “Kiri and Karl” CD. In fact, Gruberova’s ethereal tone is well used by the producer, especially in “Ecco la primevera.” Think of it as high-class, up-tempo Enya. The booklet has no texts, and only a scanty note in German or English, only slightly more comprehensible in the latter than in the former to this non-German speaker.

Gruberova_Adagio.pngThe booklet for edition 2, “Adagio: Between heaven and earth,” has no notes at all, just track listings, photos of album covers, and production details on the original recordings. It’s a beautiful collection, however, although the point of the title (let alone the tacky cover art) proves elusive. Anything with a vaguely “spiritual” bent seems to have qualified, including an absolutely luscious run-through of Lakme’s duet with Mallika (sung by Natela Nicoli). The opening track is a rare vocalise from Saint-Saens, “Le Rossignol et la rose,” allowing Gruberova to put on a master class in sustained breath control and floating notes. A series of lieder duets with Vesselina Kasarova makes one want to hunt down the complete recording they came from. All in all, the collection is much more heavenly than earthy.

Gruberova_Hymnus.pngPerhaps on some other disc of the “Edita Gruberova Edition” we will find tracks from Hymnus, a collection of pieces from Bach, Handel, and Mozart. Strangely, Gruberova does not seem at home in this repertory, although it provides some opportunity for her skill at quick runs. Here the light color of her instrument blanches, the high notes pop out a bit too ostentatiously. There are fine moments, to be sure, but even in Mozart’s “Exsultate Jubilate,” Gruberova sings as if disconnected, even disinterested.

Gruberova_Beatrice.pngShe is much more at home in Bellini, and Nightingale has released many a complete set of her in his operas. The Beatrice di Tenda comes from 1992, recorded live for Österreichen Rundfunks. This time Nightingale provides a full booklet, with a libretto in German and English. Niel Rishoi’s fine essay argues for a reconsideration of the opera’s merits, and the music is indeed as impassioned as in the more performed Norma or I Puritani. However, even those operas appear less often than they deserve, probably due to the difficulty in gathering casts adequate to the demands of true bel canto style. So the chances that Beatrice Di Tenda will be staged more often in the world’s opera houses seems slight.

The story is a romantic rectangle, if the reader will allow. Count Filippo would like to be rid of his wife Beatrice, so he can be with his beloved Agnese. However, Agnese actually loves Orombello more, but he has his heart set on...Beatrice! When the Count finds Orombello and Beatrice together, he accuses them of treason, and the opera ends with Beatrice’s noble ascent of the scaffold. Actually, the story is less incredible than that of the more frequently performed La Sonnambula. If the score, though of uniform quality, had a couple of arias with more distinctive melodic profiles, perhaps the opera would be better known.

Nightingale’s cast is capable, with a young Vesselina Kasarova as Agnese, Igor Morosow growling away as the bitter Filippo, and Don Bernardini coping well with the usual stringent demands of Bellini’s writing for tenor. Gruberova, the star, is not in the very best of voice, with high notes in particular sounding more effortful than usual, and not always perfectly on pitch. Pinchas Steinberg’s leadership of the ORF-Symphonieorchester provides fine support. Her fans at the live recording, it should be noted, reward her with vociferous enthusiasm.

A DVD of the opera, also with Gruberova, was available at one time; it may be difficult to track down at this time. A diligent hunt may also produce a copy of the studio recording Richard Bonynge and Joan Sutherland brought forth.

Gruberova fans will want all of her releases, surely. For those with favorable impressions of the singer but less devotion, the Adagio compilation earns a strong recommendation.

Chris Mullins

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