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Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.
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.
26 Dec 2007
A 1979 recording originally released on LP in 1985, the CD reissue of this classic performance of Schoenberg’s 1913 cantata Gurrelieder as part of its series entitled Originals makes this fine account of this magnificent work available to another generation of listeners.
With its all-star cast and fine sonics, the Philips recording of Gurrelieder has been held in esteem for over two decades. Cast well for a festival performance at Tanglewood, it is difficult to consider a finer assemblage of musicians. In addition to the six soloists (including the speaking part assigned to the actor Werner Klemperer), the piece includes four choruses and an augmented orchestra with a scoring that calls eight flutes, seven clarinets, four harps, ten horns, six trumpets, five trombones, and six timpani. This late Romantic work is a sprawling conception of the story of the Danish King Waldemar and his love for Tove, who is mysteriously killed and for whom Waldemar desperately searches. Set around the castle of Gurre, the tragic circumstances of the ill-fated love story has some resonances with Mahler’s youthful cantata Das klagende Lied. Yet Schoenberg’s score rivals Mahler’s in scope, and requires the fine touches Ozawa brought to this recording to communicate well the nuances in the work. As fine as the sound was on the Grammy-winning LP, the transfer to CD offers some enhances in sound that merit rehearings.
Again, the fine cast featured some of the best performers of the time, and while some might quibble with the choice of singers, they all do well. In his relatively brief career James McCracken made some fine recordings, and this reading of Gurrelieder provides an opportunity to hear the tenor in a demanding and sustained role. Some listeners might prefer the sound of a later tenor, like Siegfried Jerusalem, in Chailly’s later recording of this work, but McCracken’s reading is commendable. As Waldemar, McCracken offers an impassioned portrayal of the Danish King, with the yearning implicit in the text made audible in the performance. As the Wood-Dove,Tatiana Troyanos also gave a fine performance in the brief, but critical scene at the end of the first part, which sets up the remaining portion of the story. Likewise, Jessye Norman captured the personality of Tove well, with the kind of control that has marked her performances of other Romantic heroines. Understated, but not undersung, Norman’s Tove is well thought and appropriate to the approach that Ozawa has taken in this recording, which is impressive for his fine control of the expanded orchestra that Schoenberg used in the score.
While other conductors have added their interpretations of Gurrelieder to the discography of this fascinating work, Ozawa’s endures for his solid approach and talented cast. While the sometimes massive sonorities that Schoenberg used to suggest the emotional impact of the tale are impressive, Ozawa also balances such scene painting with the attention to detail that is crucial to the more intimate sounds that are part important when Schoenberg need to bring out the text. As massive as Gurrelieder can be in terms of the forces required, the availability of such an extensive orchestra does not result in a constant assault of sound. Rather, tone colors and textures vary throughout the work, as timbre emerges as a structural device in a work that took shape as its composer worked on the famous Harmonielehre, the text in which Schoenberg outlined his approach to composition, including the idea of Klangfarbenmelodie. Ozawa was certainly sensitive to such considerations when he made this recording of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder decades ago, and it is a pleasure to return to his persuasive reading of this important score.
James L. Zychowicz