30 Mar 2008
William Byrd. Laudibus in sanctis.
William Byrd’s affinity for the Latin motet found various outlets.
Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal. Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms do occur.
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
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.