Recently in Recordings
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
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.
14 Nov 2007
Portraits of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Olga Borodina
Philips decided some time ago that it no longer needed to be the audio representative for two fine contemporary singers of Russian origin, mezzo Olga Borodina and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky.
But the company is more than
happy to recycle selections from the recordings the two artists made for the
label and issue them in two-CD sets in their "Portrait" series.
The slim booklets for each set feature a cover photograph of the artist,
with both clutching themselves and turning an enigmatic, suggestive smile to
the camera. After the track listing comes a short bio in three languages, and
then a page of all the producers, engineers, and recording locales of the
original releases. No texts, of course.
As a retrospective of each singer's early maturity, the Hvorostovsky
Portrait has an edge over Borodina's. CD 1 of the baritone's set has
three Verdi arias from a recording with Valery Gergiev, and then 5 bel canto
selections with Ion Marin. Then Gergiev returns, leading the Rotterdam
Philharmonic in providing Hvorostovsky's support for the big Tchaikovsky
baritone arias from Eugene Onegin and Pique Dame. The Kirov
plays for Gergiev in the final 5 tracks of more Russian repertory
(Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein, and Rimsky-Korsakov).
This gives the listener an excellent taste of Hvorostovsky's operatic
skills, his gorgeous tone and enviable breath control on display in every
selection. Some find the voice almost too pretty for Verdi, but surely the
baritone's Rodrigo from Don Carlo is without peer on the contemporary opera
scene. The Largo al factotum is high-spirited, even without that
traditional last falsetto cry of "Feeee-ga-ro." In the Russian pieces, the
years have only added to the artist's depth of characterization, though these
early 1990's recordings certainly satisfy on the sheer basis of vocal
Disc two begins with some "antiche arien," including Handel's Ombra
mai fu. As Borodina also sings this on her set, this allows for a point
of comparison. The mezzo lets her gorgeous voice fill out the melodic line,
lusciously but ostentatiously. Hvorostovsky somehow seems to let his voice
support the melody's innate loveliness, rather than compete with it, and his
version is the lovelier for it. Some Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff songs
follow, with piano accompaniment. An excellent recitalist, Hvorostovsky
manages the tricky feat of making a recording feel like an intimate
encounter. The dramatic conclusion of the set comes with Gergiev again
leading the Kirov as the baritone sings the Shostakovich orchestration of
Moussorgsky's "Songs and Dances of Death." Hvorostovsky's is not the darkest
of voices, and he doesn't try to force an ugly edge. Instead, the very
silkiness of his delivery plays against the text in a way that presents a
sinister effect. There are more potent versions, but the music is very well
Borodina's set does more skipping around in musical eras. It starts with
Dalila's big aria, then two from Rossini's Rosina. The Ombra mai fu
is followed by Preziosilla's numbers from the Gergiev La Forza del
Destino set. Instead of showing off the singer's versatility,
unfortunately, this arrangement tends to emphasize the sameness of her
artistic approach, which basically amounts to a reliance on the beauty of her
instrument over characterization. Yes, she can sing Ponchielli, and Berlioz,
and Purcell - but the singing doesn't reflect much of an awareness that these
are very different composers.
The second disc, thankfully, is dedicated to Russian repertory (except for
three quite charming songs from Falla's Siete canciones populares
españolas. Whether in song or opera, Borodina in her native tongue has
a life and a sensitivity in her singing less apparent in other languages.
Here the undeniable lusciousness of her instrument is partnered with a
detailed interpretative stance, and the greatness of her artistry is
undeniable. The disc ends with a luscious performance of a Psalm from
Rachmaninoff's Vespers. Even the famously glum Rachmaninoff would
have smiled at the beauty here.
The many original releases that both these compilations came from would be
very hard to track down these days, so fans of either singer who missed out
on those discs should look for these "Portrait" CDs.