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

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Richard Strauss: Opernszenen
15 May 2008

STRAUSS: Opernszenen | Scenes of Operas.

Recorded between 1938 and 1942, the excerpts from performances of Der Rosenkavalier, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Arabella, and Daphne at the Dresden Staatsoper are all conducted by Karl Böhm.

Richard Strauss: Opernszenen | Scenes of Operas
Edition Staatskapelle Dresden, vol. 27.

Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, Karl Böhm (cond.)

Profil Medien PH07039 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

As such, the recordings provide a snapshot of Strauss performance during the latter part of the composer’s career, and also offer a glimpse at Böhm’s efforts as a young conductor. While Böhm first conducted at the Dresden Staatsoper in 1933, he was offered the position of conductor at this important house in 1934 and remained there for nine years. During that time he worked with some of the most important German singers of the day, and also came to know Strauss well. Böhm’s association with Strauss contributed to the special status of Dresden as a house that specialized in the composer’s operas, and various iconography associated with those performances are reproduced in the extremely fine booklet that accompanies this release.

The recordings themselves derive from two sources: the Stiftung Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv and the private collection of Jens Uwe Völnecke. While the selections reflect some of the more familiar, if not important, music from the operas they represent, they also preserve the interpretations of singers who were involved with the Dresden performances of the time. They include Margarete Teschemacher, Christel Goltz, Esther Rethy, Elisabeth Höngen, Josef Herrmann, Toster Ralf, and Mathieu Ahlersmeyer and while only some of the names may be familiar today, those singers were among the outstanding interpreters of opera in their day. The quality of the voices is immediately apparent in the first and third tracks, who excerpts from Der Rosenkavalier that involve Höngen and Rethy, In the vocal excepts from that opera on the first and third tracks, from the second and third acts respectively, the voices intersect well in conveying Strauss’s writing for sopranos voices.

Böhm’s tempos support the performance in fitting both the musical lines and the sung text so that both elements emerge clearly. In both cases, the voices seem close to the microphone, but not entirely at the expense of the accompaniment. It is possible to sample the fuller sound of the orchestra in the second track, one of the famous waltz passages from the third act. Böhm played the waltz music without introducing affections that stylize it, and this kind of approach characterizes much of his conducting in these selections.

Likewise, Barak’s aria “Sie haben es mir gesagt” from the first act of Die Frau ohne Schatten benefits from a discrete orchestral accompaniment. In this excerpt the baritone Joseph Herrmann is particularly clear, and the choral passages contain a resonance that sometimes escapes earlier recordings. This excerpt also shows a subtle shift in the dynamics of the accompaniment that emerges well in this transfer. It is a poignant moment in the opera, and Herrmann’s final phrase sets up the final orchestral gesture.

Similarly, Torsten Ralf’s recording of the “Falke” scene from the first act of Die Frau ohne Schatten is essentially an extended scene for his character of the Kaiser. In this recording the orchestral colors are distinctive, with the interplay between the upper woodwinds and the solo cello. Again, Böhm offers a fine pacing of the music, such that its lingering quality underscores the meditative nature of the scene in which the Emperor invokes the falcon-spirit and reveals to the audience more details of the plot. Ralf’s tenor sound is appropriate to the character both in terms of range and strength. His upper range is nicely rich and, again, works well with the cello music that crosses the vocal line in the same register.

The other two operas sampled in these recordings include Arabella, another work in which Strauss draws on Viennese culture for his setting and plot. Margarete Teschemacher and Christel Goltz play, respectively, the title character and Zdenka, and their interpretations are worth hearing. As with the music from Der Rosenkavalier, the voices seem quite close to the microphone and while that alters the kind of balance found in modern recordings that capture more the sense of the ensemble from farther away in the room, the acoustic allows modern audiences to hear the timbres of the voices clearly. With Daphne, these recordings brought to a wide audience music from a relatively recent Strauss opera. Represented by three excerpts, it is, perhaps, the last, the transformation scene of the title character, which conveys the style of work well. In that one, Teschemacher offers a touching vocal characterization of Daphne, with Böhm’s leadership allowing the orchestra to emerge subtly as the accompaniment depicts her metamorphosis into the shrub that bears her name.

In general, the sound transfer is quite good, with minimal hiss or distortion. Some extraneous sounds emerge from time to time, with the most prominent in the seventh track. Those unfamiliar with some of the recordings of his works that exist from Strauss’s lifetime may wish to hear this fine selection. Beyond the choice of music, the singers represent some of the finest of their generation and give evidence of the quality of singing found in German opera houses in the 1930s and 1940s, voices that Strauss also had in mind as he composed his late works.

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):