Recently in Recordings
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
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.
10 Oct 2010
Schumann: The Complete Symphonies, Mahler Edition
Mahler’s well-known revisions of music he conducted include the four symphonies by Robert Schumann, and while these Retuschen have been performed from time to time, a recording of all four of them is now available from Decca.
Based on performances give between 2006 and 2007, specifically: Symphony no. 1 (13-16 February 2007); Symphony no. 2 (30 August to 9 September 2006); Symphony no. 3 (30 May to 2 June 2007; and Symphony no. 4 (26-28 October 2006). As such, the four symphonies offer a unified reading of the scores in the versions Mahler retouched, and which David Matthews describes in the liner notes included with this recording. Leaving aside for the moment some of the critical stances on Schumann’s orchestration, the present recording is valuable in conveying the scoring that Mahler used and in doing so suggesting some aspects of the later composer’s approach to these works. While revised the orchestration of these works, he did not revise them so drastically as to create new arrangements of the scores. Rather, he revised the brass and woodwind parts, as well as added indications for effects, like stopped horns, etc.; his efforts included adjusting dynamic markings, and other details that allowed him to interpret these symphonies from the podium. The result is a Mahlerian approach to these works, with various timbres and balances calling to mind sonorities Mahler himself would use. In this sense it requires a conductor familiar with both composers to bring these scores to life, and the esteemed Mahlerian Riccardo Chailly has done some impressive work in these performances.
The content of the pieces is wholly Schumann’s, but the orchestral touches reflect subtleties that Mahler wanted to bring out. As much as Mahler’s revisions clarify some passages, they also suggest the way he would approach the orchestra and, in a larger sense, the stance a conductor from the late nineteenth century would offer on these scores from the middle of the century. Some of the details reflect a reliance on woodwinds and brass that was not used or, in some cases, not possible during Schumann’s lifetime. In this sense, these scores are Schumann realized for a new generation, when the orchestral sound shifted from its reliance on the strings as the core sound to a more diversified timbral palette. A telling point for this is the first movement of Schumann’s Third Symphony “Rhenish,” in which the horns and woodwinds differ from the conventional way this piece is played. Mahler’s orchestral dialect articulates Schumann’s text well, and this movement is a fine example of the value of this recording.
Those familiar with the traditional scoring of the Second Symphony may find some palpable differences in Mahler’s scoring of that work, especially in the final movement. As moving as this Symphony is, it takes on different colors with the revision, which bears rehearing with some of the traditional recordings of the piece in the extant discogtraphy. A fine point of comparison is the venerable recording by George Szell, or even the more recent set of Schumann’s symphonies that Eliahu Inbal recorded. In this new recording of Mahler’s revision, it is also possible to hear Chailly’s perspective on these works, a factor which is yet another benefit of this set.
As to these performances, Chailly demonstrates well his concepts of Schumann’s symphonies and also his sense of style with Mahler’s music. With slow introductions, as with the first movement of the First Symphony (“Spring”), the contrast in tempo may seem drastic at first, but it works well as the energetic theme of the first section moves forward and contributes to the convey the emotion suggested in the score. In rendering the scoring of this piece Chailly brings a sense of lightness that fits the character of the music. Elsewhere, as in the slow movement of Schumann’s Second Symphony, the structure of the music emerges readily and persuasively. Likewise, the Third Symphony (“Rhenish”) works well, in this fresh and dynamic reading of the piece which is evident from the start. The solemnity suggested in the fourth movement (marked “Feierlich”) is in earnest, and never a caricature. In these movements and the others Chailly balances nicely the music of Schumann with the editorial stance of Mahler, while never allowing the pieces to become studied.
This set of Schumann’s symphonies has much to recommend on the part of both composers. Not merely a curiosity or a novelty, the revisions that Mahler himself believed were important are certainly given such credence in this set of authoritative readings by Chailly. Moreover, the playing by the Gewandhaus Orchestra is engaging throughout, with a supple, inviting sound that brings the score to life. The two-disc set is a convenient vehicle for this intriguing release.
James L. Zychowicz