Recently in Recordings
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.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
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During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
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It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
09 Jun 2008
Songs by Henry & William Lawes
With this recording of songs by Henry & William Lawes, musical brothers who flourished in Caroline England, countertenor Robin Blaze with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny continue their exploration of early English song for Hyperion, and the results are stunning.
Blaze sings with consummate control, impressive technical agility, a broad dynamic range and expressive flair; Kenny is his perfect accompanimental match, playing with flexibility, engaging adornment, dynamism, and unusual clarity of tone.
Many of the pieces here show the English response to continental progress, advances that travel, international marriages, publication, and the presence of foreign musicians at court would have made familiar. Italy’s new text-centered baroque aesthetic, defined in works like Caccini’s Le nuove musiche, found an English echo in expressive, songs with declamatory elements and Italianate ornamental idioms. Henry Lawes’ “A Tale Out of Anacreon” and “Amarillis by a Spring” or William Lawes’ “O Let Me Still and Silent Lie,” are fine examples of this Anglo-Italianism; the “aye me” of “O Let Me Still and Silent Lie” is as doleful as any madrigalistic ohime. Compositional tongue in cheek, in the song “In quell gelato core,” Henry Lawes went so far as to set the table of contents of an Italian song anthology, a convincing aria di piu parte with all Italian idioms and ornamentations “thereunto appertaining.”
The serious, impassioned Italianate songs are placed in counterpoint here with instrumental pieces—the broody and moody lute fantasia by Cuthbert Hely is especially notable—and strophic songs with triple meter dance elements like “O My Clarissa” or “Amidst the Myrtles as I Walk.” The performances of these songs are unflaggingly captivating, not least for the animating and beguiling use of the plucked strings. With harp, guitar, and theorbo all engaged, who can resist? Although historically it is the declamatory songs that have seemed most significant, in this anthology, I suspect it is these pieces that will most readily gratify, a pleasant reminder of the congeniality of the English ayre and the persistence of its tradition.
The saga of the Lawes brothers is one marked by sad poignance, for William lost his life in 1645, fighting for the royalist cause at the Battle of Chester. The concluding work on the recording is Henry’s “Pastoral Elegie to the memory of my deare Brother.” The text speaks of William’s ability to “allay the murmurs of the wind,” to “appease the sullen seas,” to “calme the fury of the mind.” The imagery here reminds of the Orpheus archetype certainly, but in more concrete terms, it underscores the dynamic power of musical expression. In the “Songs by Henry & William Lawes,” this is amply and wonderfully on display.