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Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered
and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has
happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by
Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.
This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the
most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100
songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable
artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan
Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles”
This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa
Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The
Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s
Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical
Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their
40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two
settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.
Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according
to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.
Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
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.
22 Sep 2008
Music for the Court of Maximilian II
Although Jacobus Vaet, Antonius Galli and Pieter Maessens are little-known composers today, this impressive recording featuring their music, the debut recording by the ensemble Cinquecento, may serve as a cautionary reminder that modern familiarity is often the fruit of circumstance and not necessarily a reliable measure of artistic achievement.
All three composers were variously attached to the Habsburg court in the middle of the sixteenth century and the music of all three amply reveals both the richness of the mid-century style and the careful craftsmanship they brought to it. Cinquecento’s program is devoted to a mass and several motets from the Habsburg orbit by these three with an additional motet by Lasso. The program coheres not only through contextual proximity, but more significantly by the way the pieces reflect music’s function within a web of patronage. Some of the motets (Maessen’s “Discessu” and Lasso’s “Pacis amans”) explicitly name Maximilian, and these form a direct salute to the House of Habsburg. The text of Vaet’s motet, “Ascendetis post filium,” is dedicated in praise of Maximilian; he is not named in the text specifically, although the theme is one of monarchical succession, possibly written for his assuming the throne of Bohemia or Hungary. This salute to Maximilian is furthered in Galli’s imitation mass based on Vaet’s motet, and significantly, the salute to the patron also becomes a salute to Vaet, as well--a two-fold doffing of the compositional hat!
The performances are sublime. Cinquecento offers a sumptuous sound, exquisitely focused and yet rich in tone, as the opening motet, Vaet’s “Videns Dominus,” reveals from its very first notes. The contrapuntal style of the pieces is generally dense, although the ensemble’s lines are unflaggingly lithe, taming the density with clarity. And the suppleness of line is matched with a fluid sense of melisma, as in the flowing passage work of the “Benedictus” in Galli’s mass. Other moments are characterized by the ensemble’s finely crafted control, as in the “Et incarnatus” from the mass, or the beautiful stillness of some of the final chords.
The bass of Cinquecento, Ulfried Staber, sings with an especially gratifying sound, a delight in itself, of course, but also a sound that seems foundational for the ensemble tone as a whole. It is as though his sound is “pulled up” through the other registers, yet remains in place as both model and fundament.
The Music of Maximilian II is a splendid recording of music that is refreshingly little-known, sung with consummate skill and artistry.