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

Edition Staatskapelle Dresden Vol. 17
13 Jul 2008

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 9; Richard Strauss: Tod und Verklärung

The late Guiseppe Sinopoli (1946-2001) became established as an estimable conductor of nineteenth-century music, and his legacy includes a number of fine recordings.

Gustav Mahler: Symphonie no.9 / Richard Strauss: Tod und Verklärung
Edition Staatskapelle Dresden Vol. 17

Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, Guiseppe Sinopoli (cond.)

Profil Medien PH07004 [2CDs]

$34.99  Click to buy

At the same time, Sinopoli was also a dynamic conductor, whose facility on the podium can be heard in recordings of concerts, such as the ones found on this recent release on Hänssler’s Profil series, which includes the performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (completed 1909) recorded on 6 April 1997 at the Semperoper, Dresden, and Strauss’s well-known tone poem Tod und Verklärung (completed 1888-89) that is based on concerts given on 10 and 11 January 2001. The pairing of the two pieces was not intended by the conductor, but is fitting for various reasons. While Strauss’s tone poem antedates Mahler’s last completed symphony by a decade, the two works capture both composers in their maturity. By 1909 Strauss had shifted emphasis in compositions to opera, while Mahler was pursuing the concert works that demonstrate the ingenuity of his late style, as found in the symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde and the Ninth Symphony. The latter, though, was never performed by Mahler, but had its premiere a year after its composer’s death under the direction of Bruno Walter. If Mahler’s posthumous reputation was retrenched in the 1960s with the well-known revival of interest in his works that took place around 1960, the Ninth Symphony remains one work that benefited from a number of fine recordings in the intervening years. It is a work that demands much from the orchestra and its conductor, a challenge that Sinopoli addressed well in this live recording of a concert performance.

Sinopoli had recorded this very work with the Philharmonia Orchestra four years earlier in 1993, a performance released on Deutsche Grammophon and currently available in the conductor’s set of Mahler’s symphonies. The earlier recording merits attention for various reasons, and a similar case may be made for the later one, which reflects Sinopoli’s ongoing exploration of the composer’s music. As one of Mahler’s later works, the orchestral style involves a kaleidoscopic mixture of chamber-music-like sonorities which demand a precise and attentive ensemble. Sinopoli is effective in achieving this, with the sometimes transparent scorings emerging clearly and the lines seeming almost seamless. If Sinopoli’s sense of rubato is apparent in the exposition of the first movement, it is a tribute to his command of the Staatskapelle Dresden, which responded well to him. The sometimes sudden entrances of the horns in that movement are clear and never stridently out of place. Rather, the pointillistic sounds fit together well under Sinopoli’s baton in this recording. Likewise, the strings act as a unit and offer the full, rich sound that Mahler required in this score, a sonority the stands in contrast to the concertato-like effects in the winds an brass. In the expansive tempos of the first movement, Sinopoli seems to revel in the sheer sound of the music, as occurs in the reminiscence of music from the First Symphony. With such pacing, it is possible to perceive the timbre-based units that Mahler used to support the structure of the work.

The approach to the subsequent movements is equally solid, with a masterful Scherzo that involves a fuller orchestral sound. Some of the shifts of tempo may seem, at times, idiosyncratic, as with the rubato used for the trombone passage in the first section. Sinopoli indulges in a somewhat slower interpretation of the middle section of the movement than some conductors allow, but his command of the movement is evident. The interaction of tempos is essential to the articulation of the musical structure, and Sinopoli makes the most of bringing out the distinctions he deemed necessary for his interpretation of the movement, as if to underline the differences that should be immediately apparent to the audience. A similar case may be made for the Rondo-Burleske, which includes a similar approach to the timbral distinctions between sections. At times the Rondo-Burleske possesses a drive that is sometimes lost in a live performance, and such intensity is welcome. (Unfortunately the copy on the jewel-case includes the attacca marking along with the title of the movement to render it as Attacca Rondo-Burleske.)

With the final movement, Sinopoli offers a spacious interpretation that balances his approach to the opening of the Symphony. In the Adagio-Finale, the string textures are quite effective, with a resonant and warm tone. Here the Staatskapelle Dresden demonstrates its fine core sound in a movement that is essentially chamber music on a grand scale. In this expansive interpretation it is possible to hear subtleties that sometimes escape notice. The sound is close, as occurs throughout the recording, and Sinopoli’s interpretation benefits from this perspective. As in the first movement, the various shifts of tone color serve to underscore the structure, and Sinopoli draws on them for maximum effect. The movement flows convincingly, with the full expression the music requires.

After the monumental Finale of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony another work may seem anticlimactic. Yet Sinopoli’s nuanced recording of Strauss’s late tone poem Tod und Verklärung somehow works well. Just as he brought out various colors of Mahler’s score, Sinopoli used a similar approach to the sometimes more broadly scored passages of Strauss’s work. With its implicitly personal program, the reflective tempos that Sinopoli uses in this recording are effective. Again, the seemingly close proximity of the microphones allows details to emerge easily, and the result is a memorable recording of Strauss’s score. The brasses shimmer without dominating, and the woodwinds offer some fine ensemble playing. The percussion, so important to this particular work, fit well into the structure and the program with appropriate incision.

Part of the ongoing audio archive of some of the exceptional performances of the Staatskapelle Dresden, this is a welcome addition to the already fine body of recordings already available. The recording of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony preserves Sinopoli’s later interpretation of a score that fits his style well, and those unfamiliar with his approach to Strauss’s music will find an excellent example of his work in Tod und Verklärung, a recording made not long before the conductor’s passing.

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):