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.
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