Recently in Recordings
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
Since his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1971, conductor James Levine has come to represent the house’s commitment to artistic excellence — reliable, professional, and immaculately presented.
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.