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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.
27 Apr 2008
Bruckner: Symphony no. 8 in C minor, WAB 108 (1890 [Second Version])
As difficult as it is to identify a single score as representative of its composer, Symphony no. 8 in C minor by Anton Bruckner is an essential work that may be regarded as the quintessence of his accomplishments in the form.
While a number of fine sound recordings exist to convey the aural images of the work, live performances of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony convey the dynamic elements of the score, as conductor interacts with his players to bring out the various elements of this powerful work. Among the recent DVD releases is a compelling performance of this work led by Kent Nagano. In fact, this video appears under the label “Kent Nagano Conducts Classical Masterpieces,” the Arthaus Musik has issued on DVD series of six concerts of essential works, which include Mozart’s Symphony no. 41 “Jupiter”, Beethoven’s Symphony no. 3 “Eroica”, Schumann’s Symphony no. 3 “Rhenish”, Brahms’ Symphony no. 4, and Richard Strauss’s "Alpine" Symphony, an well-chosen group of pieces that deserve such attention.
The recording is based on a broadcast from German television, which results in high-resolution images typical of the European idiom. With clear details, from the shadows caused by the lighting on the stage to the grain of the wood in the violins and other string instruments, the recording conveys a sense of immediacy. Beyond such a technical feature, the images also show Nagano clearly, as he brings the players together in this complex and demanding score. While the film captures his conducting well enough, a series like this would benefit from an inset of a camera trained on the conductor, so that it would be possible to view Nagano between the times when the camera currently shows him directly. Caught sometimes mid-phrase, and even then perhaps en route to a crescendo or diminuendo, the suddenly view of the conductor seems abrupt, but is certainly not unwelcome. That kind of mixture of images, a convention with DVDs of concert performances, can function, at times, at odds, with the musical line. While these kinds of shots sometimes intrude upon the performance, they can be effective in certain passages of the Finale.
As to the performance itself, the Orchestra has given a memorable reading of Bruckner’s score, with a rich, full sound, and remarkable ensemble. The brass are strong without resorting to stentorian tactics, and the chorale-like passages wonderfully resonant. Likewise, the woodwinds work well together, with the resulting precision bringing the score to sonic life. Percussion with Bruckner sometimes serve a supportive role, but with the Finale, the timpani are prominent and lead the ensemble in conveying the driving rhythms that are essential to the movement. In fact, all the forces of the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester come together with conviction in a powerful reading of the concluding movement in which Nagano demonstrates his mastery of the score. Dramatic without pandering to cliché, thunderous without playing for sheer volume, the Finale works well in Nagano’s hands, and it summarizes, in a sense, his efforts in bringing this work into the series of masterpieces that are the subject of the DVD recordings.
In addition to this performance of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony, the DVD includes a documentary about the work, and at approximately 52 minutes – over half the length of the performance, it is a substantial part of the recording. While the documentary concerns the Symphony featured on this DVD, its label as part five, suggests some relationship to the four recordings that precede it in the set. Yet the film stands alone, and serves as an introduction to those who are unfamiliar with Bruckner in general and who might want some background about the music performed in the concert. This presentation involves some lengthy segments from the concert itself and involves imagines of familiar Bruckner iconography, along with some nature shots. It is intriguing that the producer used animation (led by Martin Mißfeldt and Gerhard Hahn) to depict some quotations from primary sources. Yet the excerpts from the rehearsals, including interviews with performers, help to support the performance recorded on this DVD. Overall, though, the documentary functions well as a pedagogical tool for this work, as the others similarly support the other pieces featured in Nagano’s series of “Masterpieces” of orchestral literature. It is a welcome addition to the concerts available on DVD and a fine performance that merits attention outside the set of Classical Masterpieces.
James L. Zychowicz