Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Arnold Schoenberg: Gurrelieder
26 Dec 2007

SCHOENBERG: Gurrelieder

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.

Arnold Schoenberg: Gurrelieder

Jessye Norman, James McCracken, Tatiana Troyanos, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa

Philips 475-7782 [2CDs]

$21.99  Click to buy

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

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):