Recently in Recordings
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.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
13 Jan 2008
“One Foot in Eden Still, I Stand”: Choral Music by Nicholas Maw.
The English composer Nicholas Maw has been a major voice since the 1960's, with a wide range of works that include the 2002 opera, "Sophie’s Choice," a violin concerto for Joshua Bell (1993), and the monumentally-scaled orchestral work, "Odyssey" (1972-87).
This present anthology by the Schola Cantorum of Oxford offers an interesting collection of his choral works, works whose texts and idioms make clear the composer’s native connection to the English tradition, while at the same time they reveal a diverse and individual voice. Maw’s music is often Romantic in spirit, though modern in harmonic language, while his contrapuntal bent, like the texts he sets, evokes earlier ages, still.
The Three Hymns (1989), settings of seventeenth-century devotional poetry, are alternately exuberant and intimate, with the second of the set, “Pastoral Hymn,” exhibiting a spry quality reminiscent of Britten—the text even seems somewhat resonant with Christopher Smart’s “Rejoice in the Lamb”—and text-inspired contrasts of pace and register are familiarly madrigalian. The Britten influence is clear in some of the Five Epigrams (1960), as well, such as the crisp frolic of the engaging “Andrew Turner.” Sometimes the nod is more in the direction of Vaughan Williams and Holst, as in the folk-song like “Popular Song” from the Five Irish Songs (1972). These examples doff the hat to notable forebears, and scattered here and there, remind us of the rich tradition to which Maw’s work is connected.
Maw’s gift for lyric lines is well in evidence in works like the Christmas carol “Balulalow” and “Swete Jesu,” the latter a commission for the annual Lessons and Carols broadcast from King’s College Cambridge. And in “Swete Jesu” an imbedding of the melody amid flowing contrapuntal lines in the second verse is especially memorable. This developmental sense is also particularly compelling in works like the beautiful Irish song, “Ringleted youth of my love,” where extended homophonic declamation warmly blossoms into more complex writing for subsequent verses.
The singing of the Schola Cantorum of Oxford is in the main very satisfying here. Complicated harmonies are handled with confidence, difficult figurations with dexterity, and the expression of the performances proceeds from a welcome sense of ownership and engagement. A recording of interest, this anthology underscores the continuing cultivation of English choral music by composers of the first rank.