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.
20 Jan 2008
Deutsche Grammophon budget opera sets
Repackaging older recordings having become the primary focus of a classical recording company's business, Deutsche Grammophon budgeted some funds for art direction for its budget series called "Opera House" (although that appellation only appears in a link found on the back inside cover of the sets' booklets).
The theme seems to be iconic imagery in realistic photographs. For the fine Claudio Abbado-led La Cenerentola, the cover features a young washerwoman with wooden bucket and straw broom. She looks sad - hasn't anyone noticed her short skirt and cleavage-exposing blouse? Thankfully no model had to risk her life by posing amid the flaming pile of sticks for the Il Trovatore set.
Well, if such artwork catches the eyes of potential customers, their ears will be further rewarded with the performances contained in these sets. Abbado's elegant Cenerentola stars Teresa Berganza, who can sing sadly with great sweetness. When her big moment comes at the end of the opera, Berganza marries solid technique to refined joy. The bravura excitement of Cecilia Bartoli may be missed by some, but the Bartoli set, to the extent it is still available, remains at full price. Neither Bartoli nor Berganza have star tenors for the role of Don Ramiro, which has been sung with such beauty by Juan-Diego Florez, among current tenors. Luigi Alva on this 1971 DG set, while displaying command of the idiom, lacks tonal beauty. Paolo Montarsolo blusters as Don Magnifico, a character not easy to take on a recording. Renato Capecchi's Dandini slithers in and out of ensembles with appropriate slickness. The London Symphony orchestra and Scottish Opera Chorus make up for any perceived lack of Italian warmth with precision and style.
More than Italian warmth, fire burns through the Tullio Serafin Trovatore set. The cast listing in the booklet puts Ettore Bastianini's Conte di Luna first, and why not? His portrayal rages and aches with a passion that makes him much more than just the baritone villain. The "Il balen" alone makes this set precious, with gorgeous tone and supple, long-breathed lines. Sparks to light more than a few pyres fly when Bastianini meets the Azucena of Fiorenza Cossotto, near the start of her international career (the recording dates from 1962). Demonic in her low notes and fierce when she reaches high, she dominates the performance as only a truly great Azucena can.
The ostensible leads both give worthy performances, if ultimately outshone by both the stars mentioned above in this recording, and by other singers in their roles on other versions. Antonietta Stella's lovely soprano sometimes threatens to spread at the end of long lines or high-flying passages. Ultimately her very feminine sound carries her through. Carlo Bergonzi gives a more bel canto reading of Manrico than is typical. The character is a troubadour, after all, and Bergonzi makes it clear that Manrico can sing quite beautifully. He does fire up the engines for "Di quella pira," with an understandable if amusing delay before firing off the climatic high note at the aria's end.
Serafin proves again his mastery of Verdi, and the chorus and orchestra of La Scala perform with their expected conviction. The overly bright recording, however, lacks any sense of dramatic space.
Both sets come with detailed track listings that include plot summaries of the action at key moments, in English, French and German. Your reviewer could find no word of a link to an online libretto in the booklet. So these sets can be best recommended to opera fans who already own sets with more complete packaging. Both offer ample musical reasons for adding them to any collection.