Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

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):