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.
07 Jan 2008
This disc is well worth the price for the first track alone: the opening measures of Jean-Féry Rebel’s “Cahos,” (Chaos), written in 1737 or 1738, may cause you to wonder if you accidentally left a Stockhausen or Ligeti disc in the changer.
According to the composer’s preface to the
published score, the opening fortissimo chord, containing all seven notes of
the scale, represents “that confusion which reigned between the elements
before the moment when . . . they took the places prescribed for them by the
nature’s order.” What follows is literally chaotic: each of the elements
has its own leitmotif and key, and they clash and conflict in nearly random
fashion. A throbbing bass note represents Earth; Water is a flute scale; Air
is a series of flute trills, and Fire is represented by high, rapid violin
notes; they resolve themselves into a coherent and dramatic D minor tonality
only at the end of the movement. What follows is a pleasant, but far more
pedestrian, ballet suite in D major, intended for the Paris Opéra.
Although Les Élémens was originally written for an orchestra of
about fifty players, the published version is set up to permit concert
performance by two violins, two flutes and a bass, or private performance by
violin and harpsichord, or by harpsichord alone. Christopher Hogwood and the
Academy of Ancient Music, in this digital remastering of an analog recording
that won the French Grand prix du disque in the early days of the
historical performance movement, thus fall somewhere in the middle, with an
ensemble of about twenty which includes future superstars Monica Huggett and
Simon Standage. Two all-digital recordings of Les Élémens are
currently available from Les Musiciens du Louvre (1993) and Musica Antiqua
Köln (1995); both of them use approximately the same performing forces. To
hear the chamber version, one must track down the hard-to-get recording by
the Palladian Ensemble (Linn Records, U.K., 2003).
The other work on this CD is a suite of excerpts from another ballet, also
entitled Les Élémens. Rebel was probably familiar it, since the
six-year-old King Louis XV danced in its first performance in 1721. The
booklet lists it as being composed by André Cardinal Destouches, who was at
that time the Inspector General of the Paris Opéra, but many of the
movements were actually among the last works of court composer Michel-Richard
de Lalande. The recording includes the overture, the “Air” numbers, and
the “Water” numbers, and the “Fire” chaconne. Unlike the Rebel piece,
little attempt is made to represent the elements programmatically. Lalande
and Destouches rely on the scenery and costumes; the overture contains no
vestige of the “fire spouting from volcanoes” that would have been
visible onstage. Although this work is far more conventional than the Rebel
piece, it is still well worth hearing, and the Academy’s recording appears
to be the only one currently available.
University of California, Davis