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.
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.
06 Oct 2010
Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 5
Based on performances given on 18 and 21 October 2008 and 16 and 17 January 2009, this recording of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra offers its latest release of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, a work associated with the group since the composer’s lifetime.
Mahler himself worked with Willem Mengelberg, whose annotated score contains markings that stem from conversations with the composition. This is the source for the information about the familiar Adagietto being a love letter to the composer’s wife Alma, and other details about the piece. That stated, the association of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is borne out in various recordings during the century since the premiere of what is, perhaps, one of Mahler’s best-known symphonies.
This recording gives a fine sense of the textured sound of the Concertgebouw, with its uniformly strong sections and cohesive sound. This is readily apparent in the Scherzo, which is probably Mariss Jansons’ most successful movement in this recording. Here Jansons manages to navigate well between the shifting timbres of the score, which intersect the various sections of this multi-layered movement. The driving rhythms of the concluding sections underscore the dynamic changes which, in turn, reveal other changes in scoring. At times Jansons’s tempos are somewhat slower than some conductors choose, and this is useful in the Scherzo, where it allows the details become easily audible, particularly in the latter part of the movement. One of the pleasures of this recording is the clarity of the woodwind textures, not only in the Scherzo, but elsewhere. The figuration of the woodwinds in the second movement is effective, especially in the passages that Jansons takes at a somewhat slow tempo.
Likewise, the harp in the Adagietto helps to reinforce the chord changes in the strings and conveys a sense of a strummed aubade. Here, though, the rich textures of the lower strings are not strong enough to balance the treble sounds, which tend to dominate this movement. This is nonetheless a solid performance of this famous movement. It is never self-indulgent, but flows nicely to allow the vocal qualities of the structural model of the movement, Mahler’s Rückert setting “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekomment” (“I am lost to the world”) to guide the interpretation.
In general, Jansons offers a reading of the Fifth that lacks some of the frenetic qualities that other interpreters sometimes bring to the work. Jansons lingers at time, and while he does not fail to bring the works to satisfying conclusions, it is never at the expense of sacrificing clarity or allowing figuration to become sound effects. In this sense, the pacing offers something that lends itself to the strengths of the Concertgebouw in presenting a uniformly solid sound and allowing it to blend nicely in this reading of Mahler’s score.
This kind of approach makes it possible to appreciate the interpretation of the Rondo-Finale, which is not as driven to reach the ending, as much as it revels in the means of getting to that point. Just as the chorale at the climax of the second movement ends rings nicely in this recording, Jansons sustains that effect in the last movement. The orchestral sonorities match the melodic and motive content to good effect. This is a thoughtful interpretation of this familiar work, which bears attention for the ways in which it offers a distinctive sense of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, even with the interpretive distance implicit in the recording.
James L. Zychowicz