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?
01 Feb 2011
Gustav Mahler: Symphonies nos. 1 & 9
Issued together, this set includes recordings from two different times, with Mahler’s First Symphony based on performances from 10, 11, and 23 March 2003, and the Ninth from performances between 1 and 3 June 2006.
The pairing is optimal in terms of the timings and also the relationship between the two works, with the reminiscences from the earlier work in the later one contributing some aspects of unit to the set. As with Gerard Schwarz’s other recent Artek release of his recording of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, these performances offer solid interpretations of two very different works.
The recording of Mahler’s Ninth offers a fine interpretation, with a particularly well conceived reading of the first movement. As spacious as his conception of this piece may be, it is also possesses a dynamism that makes it compelling. Schwarz clearly knows the score in his attention to the details found in it, and in adhering to them allows the composer’s intentions to be heard clearly. The tutti passages are nicely voiced, with full-sounding chords that are rich in harmonic nuance and timbre; yet the sections that Mahler scored in a more intimate manner are nonetheless compelling for the way the smaller combinations of instruments emerge.
The paired Scherzo movements at the core of the Ninth almost merit attention for the ways in which Schwarz allowed each to have its individual character. The first of the two offers a contrast to the opening movement and if fault can be found, it is in the relatively quick transition between the movements. A minor quibble left to engineering, it should not reflect on the performance preserved here. With the second Scherzo Schwarz meets the rhythmic challenges of the music well, and from the outset distinguishes its character from the movement that precedes it. The brass are prominent in the second Scherzo, and Schwarz is good never to let them become unnecessarily raucous. Rather, there is a deft touch that emerges in this interpretation, a touch that allows for fluid transitions between the sections of the Rondo-Burleske. More than that, details, like the string glissandi are neither slightly nor over-accentuated.
Given the sustained mood of the recording, it is unfortunate that the final movement is separated through its placement on the second of the two discs. Again, this is a physical reality of the issue, not a fault in the performance. Here Schwarz sets the tone of the movement from the start, and the strings of the Liverpool Philharmonic respond well to his leadership. The rich textures emerge well in this recording, with the divisi scoring augmenting the tone colors and never obscuring them. Schwarz is good not to linger prematurely in this movement, but to maintain the logic of the musical structure in taking the piece to its conclusion. When the scoring thins, the voicing is never wanting, as the musical line unravels in the final section of this movement. The concluding passage is convincing and, in the atmosphere of the live performances that are the basis of the recording, would benefit from the inclusion of the audience’s applause at the end of the piece.
Recorded several years before, Schwarz’s interpretation of Mahler’s First Symphony is as convincing as the Ninth. As he would do later with the Ninth, Schwarz maintains a sense of direction that allows the structure to emerge in the opening movement of the First Symphony. It is good to hear the rhythmic precision of the various imitation bird-calls, such that the play of duple and triple figures is distinct. When it comes to the quotation from second song from Mahler’s cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Schwarz offers a fine sense of line that contrasts the motivic treatment of the music that preceded it. Such distinctions characterize this interpretation of the movement, and lead the listener to its conclusion.
With the Scherzo, Schwarz takes a brisk tempo from the start, a stylistic choice when the ensemble responds as well as this one. The horns, a prominent part of the scoring, have an appropriately blending sound that works well with the good woodwind ensemble. Likewise, the low strings are clear throughout, and support the rhythmic play that occurs above them. In the middle section, though, Schwarz’s relaxed tempos complement the more impetuous pace of the Scherzo.
Yet it is in the third movement that Schwarz leaves a strong impression, with a well-conceived interpretation of the slow movement. The klezmer-like sounds are distinct and never a caricature, and the quotation from the final song of Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is prominent but not overstated, beginning with the subtly voiced harp that leads well to the transcription of the vocal line in the strings, a theme taken up by the woodwinds. As the line moves through the orchestra, Schwarz maintains the continuity that is implicit in the score.
The Finale is equally strong, with the quick tempos that open the movement creating a nice tension with the passages that Schwarz allows to linger. Those contrasts are more clearly defined in this movement than in some of the earlier ones, with the result satisfying for the dramatic result in this recording. When the motives from the first movement reprise, Schwarz evokes the same atmospheric mood he achieved earlier in the performance, thus, bringing out the cyclic style of this Symphony. As cleanly played as it is, the recording conveys a sense of the live performances from which it was taken. Thus, in bringing the movement to its conclusion, Schwarz allows the gestures to build naturally and convincingly to a well-paced and powerful conclusion. This is a fine recording of the First that deserves attention alongside the accompanying reading of the Ninth.
James L. Zychowicz