30 Mar 2008
William Byrd. Laudibus in sanctis.
William Byrd’s affinity for the Latin motet found various outlets.
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” with herself!).
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 twentieth-century France
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.
William Byrd’s affinity for the Latin motet found various outlets.
The three volumes of Cantiones Sacrae (1575, with Thomas Tallis, 1589, and 1591) and two volumes of Gradualia (1605 and 1607), polyphonic settings of the Mass Propers of the Roman Rite, are an abundant trove and document both the Latin motet’s persistence in Anglican contexts as well as Byrd’s own persistence in musical Romanism. This present recording, the tenth in a series of Byrd’s works by Andrew Carwood and The Cardinall’s Musick, presents the polyphonic Propers for Lady Mass in Eastertide from the 1605 Gradualia and diverse motets from the 1591 Cantiones Sacrae. Certain of the texts seem particularly resonant with the plight of Roman Catholics in Elizabethan England. For example, the motet, “Tribulatio proxima est,” with its references to tribulation, insults, and terrors and a final plea that the Lord as deliverer will not delay, seems autobiographically poignant for Byrd who, close to the time of its publication, relocated away from London to become part of a recusant community in Essex. Similarly, the “Salve Regina,” both in its Marian identity and its lamentative reference to “this vale of tears,” also strikes a distinctively Roman chord. The religious history of late sixteenth-century England is one of many layers, and these Latin works, penned by a member of Elizabeth’s Chapel Royal, are enduring reminders of the era’s religious complexity.
The Cardinall’s Musick brings a compelling fluency to their performances of Byrd, born of their long-standing commitment to his music. Their sound is both exquisitely clear and vibrantly alive, fluid in its motion and satisfyingly well-controlled. (Such beautiful final chords!) That said—and enthusiastically so—much of the music is also sung with notable fullness of sound. There are, indeed, welcome lulls, such as the “pacem Deus” of “Alleluia. Ave Maria,” or the “genuisti” of “Beata es, virgo,” but in the main there is a full richness in the sound that may lose some of its expressive power when maintained at great length. And given the busyness of much of the counterpoint, a more dynamically varied approach would serve well.
One of the most memorable renditions on the recording is the Compline prayer, “Visita quaesumus, Domine,” memorable especially for the ensemble’s lighter and more contoured approach, elicited by the nocturnal context of its words and Byrd’s scoring without a low bass voice. The “Regina caeli” is also memorable both for its three-voice texture—a change of pace from the richness of its surrounding works—and also for the ensemble’s engagingly buoyant singing of the “resurrexit” figures.