Recently in Recordings
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.
17 Oct 2010
Haendel: Water Music; Music for The Royal Fireworks
The “popular” Handel is firmly entrenched in the collective
culture with a handful of pieces: the Christmas portion of Messiah,
the “Largo” from Serse (in fact, “Larghetto,”
but collective culture is hard to convince), and instrumental suites of the
Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks come
immediately to mind.
Their popularity and frequent arrangement have given them,
I suspect, an awkward familiarity, the kind of familiarity that keeps us from
attending to them with attentive and respectful ear. Yet, their familiar
ubiquity should not blind us to the fact that they are popular, in part,
because they are very good pieces. Jordi Savall’s remastered 1993
recording of the Water Music and Music for the Royal
Fireworks is precisely the sort of recording that breaks through the fog
of familiarity and reanimates the hearing.
The pedigree of the suites, of course, needs no special pleading. The
Water Music’s association with royal entertainment on the Thames
is well known through the early Handel biographer, John Mainwaring, who gives
us the unsubstantiated and unlikely notion of a reconciliation between Handel
and George I via the beauty of the works at hand. The story is a false start,
but the royal esteem for the works survives intact. And with thousands of
people creating an eighteenth-century traffic jam on London Bridge en
route to hear a public rehearsal of the Music for the Royal
Fireworks in Vauxhall Gardens in 1749, we can have but little doubt of the
public interest in Handel and his celebrative music for the Treaty of
Savall’s splendid period performance offers the opportunity to relish
anew the amazing range of pieces in these collections: elegance, exuberance,
energy, and regality, all in a captivating procession of musical style. At each
turn, the musicians of Le Concert des Nations command such stylistic fluency
that, whether a wafting Lentement, a rhapsodic oboe Adagio,
or a spirited bassoon gigue, the familiar pieces emerge with a new and very
gratifying polish, and our newly awakened ear finds much to respect and enjoy,
indeed. To that, as Handel famously and familiarly put it elsewhere, we might