Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

Francisco Valls' Missa Regalis: The Choir of Keble College Oxford and the AAM

In the annals of musical controversies, the Missa Scala Aretina debate does not have the notoriety of the Querelle des Bouffons, the Monteverdi-Artusi spat, or the audience-shocking premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Two song cycles by Sir Arthur Somervell: Roderick Williams and Susie Allan

Robert Browning, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Charles Kingsley, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A.E. Housman … the list of those whose work Sir Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) set to music, in his five song-cycles, reads like a roll call of Victorian poetry - excepting the Edwardian Housman.

Roger Quilter: The Complete Quilter Songbook, Vol. 3

Mark Stone and Stephen Barlow present Volume 3 in their series The Complete Roger Quilter Songbook, on Stone Records.

Richard Danielpour – The Passion of Yeshua

A contemporary telling of the Passion story which uses texts from both the Christian and the Jewish traditions to create a very different viewpoint.

Les Talens Lyriques: 18th-century Neapolitan sacred works

In 1770, during an extended tour of France and Italy to observe the ‘present state of music’ in those two countries, the English historian, critic and composer Charles Burney spent a month in Naples - a city which he noted (in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771)) ‘has so long been regarded as the centre of harmony, and the fountain from whence genius, taste, and learning, have flowed to every other part of Europe.’

Herbert Howells: Missa Sabrinensis revealed in its true glory

At last, Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (1954) with David Hill conducting the Bach Choir, with whom David Willcocks performed the piece at the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Willcocks commissioned this Mass for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954, when Howells himself conducted the premiere.

Le Banquet Céleste: Stradella's San Giovanni Battista

The life of Alessandro Stradella was characterised by turbulence, adventure and amorous escapades worthy of an opera libretto. Indeed, at least seven composers have turned episodes from the 17th-century Italian composer’s colourful life into operatic form, the best known being Flotow whose three-act comic opera based on the Lothario’s misadventures was first staged in Hamburg in 1844.

Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads - a new recording from SOMM

In 1877, Ethel Smyth, aged just nineteen, travelled to Leipzig to begin her studies at the German town’s Music Conservatory, having finally worn down the resistance of her father, General J.H. Smyth.

Wagner: Excerpts from Der Ring des Niebelungen, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, RCA-Sony

This new recording of excerpts from Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen is quite exceptional - and very unusual for this kind of disc. The words might be missing, but the fact they are proves to have rather the opposite effect. It is one of the most operatic of orchestral Wagner discs I have come across.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Anton Bruckner: Symphony no. 8 in C minor, WAB 108 (1890 [Second Version]).
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.

Anton Bruckner: Symphony no. 8 in C minor, WAB 108 (1890 [Second Version]).

Deutsches Symphonie-Orchestra Berlin, Kent Nagano, conductor.DW-TV Deutsche Welle.

Arthaus Musik DVD 101 435 [DVD]

$19.98  Click to buy

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

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):