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.
09 Mar 2011
Déodat De Séverac: Le Coeur du Moulin
Interesting recordings continue to be produced in the classical music business by smaller labels with particular niche markets. For the label Timpani, their specialty tends to be rarer French repertoire.
A defining example of this specialty can be found in Timpani’s release of Le Couer du Moulin, a short opera by one Déodat de Séverac. Jacques Tchamkerten’s booklet essay (as translated into somewhat cumbersome English prose by Jeremy Drake) offers the expected testament to the composer (“
one of France’s
most naturally musical composers
”) to be found in a recording that a company has deemed worthy of producing. However, Tchamkerten is also refreshingly blunt about the work’s limitations, especially the unfortunate libretto, pointing out “the artificiality of its language”, the “fairly ill-defined” characters, and the “unconvincing” supernatural voices. Once past these negative comments, Tchamkerten’s embarks on a more detailed analysis of the score, relating the perceived felicities of Séverac’s compositional style — a blend of traditional harmony and the expanding orchestral palette of his countryman and contemporary, Claude Debussy.
Indeed, the essay begins with a quotation from Debussy, passing along — second-hand — a rather anodyne compliment about Séverac’s score (it “smells good”!). Even a casual listener will quickly pick up an aural sense of deja vu, as both the mood of the piece and many orchestral details sound very much like the master’s contemporaneous work, Pelléas et Mélisande. Tchamkerten points out that Debussy's opera had not premiered at the time of Séverac’s first version of his own opera, but that claim alone doesn’t prevent anyone from believing that Debussy’s work made a great impression on Séverac, an impression now heard in the final version of his work. In fact, for many listeners who lose patience with the free-floating ambience of Debussy masterwork, Séverac’s opera may strike them as a work that captures the best of Pelléas’s spectral beauty while being easier to follow and more superficially tuneful.
Ultimately, however, Le Coeur du Moulin is a rather slight work. The story is a tedious rural love triangle, encumbered with overly poetic language and devices, and with a story that promises conflict but never produces any. Jacques had loved Marie and then went away to serve as a soldier. His delayed return led Marie to believe herself abandoned, and she married Pierre. Jacques returns, whereupon he and Marie discover their love still beats on. However, the voices of nature and wise folk of the town manage to help Jacques realize he cannot interfere in Marie’s married life, and he leaves. By comparison, Pelléas et Mélisande comes off as red-blooded and rambunctious as Cavalleria Rusticana.
Listeners might do well then to skip or barely skim the provided English translation of the libretto and just enjoy the fine performance by the Tours company forces under the experienced baton of Jean-Yves Ossonce. The soloists are all effective, and the recorded sound clear and atmospheric. If one keeps one’s expectations modest, anyone who enjoys French music of the first half of the twentieth century — and why wouldn’t one? — will find this Timpani release a pleasant experience.