Recently in Recordings
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.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
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.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
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.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
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.