Recently in Recordings
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.
04 Dec 2007
KINKEL: An Imaginary Voyage through Europe. 32 Songs
Johanna Kinkel (1810-1858) was a talented contemporary of Fanny Hensel, and other fine musicians of the first half of the nineteenth century. Her legacy includes some fine Lieder, which are collected as An Imaginary Voyage through Europe in an arrangement that represents the various themes she explored in her music.
While the idea of a trip through the Continent is not explicitly part of Kinkel’s work, it offers some useful points of reference for listening to works that are essentially unknown, yet deserving attention. Moreover, the extensive notes by the soprano Ingrid Smithüsen are a fine introduction to Kinkel’s career.
From the works presented here, the music itself is engaging, with the songs found on this CD intriguing for their natural-sounding vocalism and well crafted accompaniments. Elements redolent of the folk idiom are part of some songs, while others suggest the influence of bel canto; elsewhere, as in “Abschied von Italian” (op. 16, no 3), the music verges on a popular-sounding idiom that breaks free from some of the foursquare style of conventional Lieder. While the arrangement of the recording accentuates some of the national styles of the texts themselves, the music is not overtly nationalistic. Some formulations that connote Scottish lyricism are part of the “Auld Rob Morris,” a setting of a folk text, as indicated in the liner notes. Yet the arrangement is a convenience for presenting this large selection of Kinkel’s songs, rather than an attempt to lock her works into the sometimes artificial categories associated with musical nationalism. Instead, lyricism prevails throughout the songs, with accompaniments that support the vocal line. Her sense of rhythm and meter allows the texts to emerge clearly, with a natural declamation that stops short of the Angst that would emerge in the Lieder of the latter part of the nineteenth century.
As much as it is possible to enjoy songs associated with the Rhine, Spain, Italy, Scotland, and France, other themes are included, like “Revolution,” “Kinderland,” and “Geisterwelt.” “Auf, whole auf Ihr Condioten” (op. 18, no. 3) is a kind of march-song that Smithüsen included with “Demokratenlied (a song without an opus designation) under the label “Revolution.” These songs show Kinkel in a somewhat popular idiom that the texts certainly require. As to the texts, a number are by Kinkel herself, with some by her second husband Gottfried Kinkel. Other songs make use of texts by poets who became associated with Lieder, like Heinrich Heine and Adalbert von Chamisso. As Smithüsen mentions in her notes, Kinkel was part of Bettina von Armin’s salon, where she met such individuals as Chamisso. In fact, some details of her life reveal how closely Kinkel was associated with some of the more important figures of her day.
The performances on this recording are laudable for various reasons, not the least is the interpretations that are persuasive enough to suggest rehearing some of the selections. Smithüsen is a fine interpreter of these Lieder, with her focused and expressive voice shaping each of the songs with the individuality the music requires. Smithüsen is effective because of her ability to bring out details, without relying on histrionics or other elements that are not idiomatic. At the same time, the accompaniments by Thomas Palm support Smithüsen throughout the recording. The use of fortepiano is fitting, and while its lighter sound may be jarring upon hearing the first selections, it proves to be a fine means of allowing the vocal lines to emerge clearly. The recording captures the nuanced sounds of the fortepiano well. Palm is a sensitive accompanist, and his ability to support some of the more overtly demonstrative songs, like “Thurm und Fluth” (op. 19, no. 6) is welcome.
Those unfamiliar with Kinkel will find this recording to be an excellent introduction to her music. At the same time, this CD expands the world of Lieder in the first half of the nineteenth century. Her music is certainly appealing enough to stand alongside some of the other figures of the time. Those who want to fuller image of music-making in the first half of the nineteenth century may find some insights in exploring Kinkel’s work. More than that, the music itself is evidence of the composer’s talent and accomplishments.
James L. Zychowicz