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.
31 May 2011
Bach Cantatas, volume 11
Pilgrimages, I suspect, derive a degree of their fruitfulness from the slowness of the journey, a pace born of desire or necessity, that removes the journey from the quotidian, brings the purpose into greater focus, and allows for a richer savoring of the experience.
John Eliot Gardiner’s remarkable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage during the anniversary year of 2000 was in a sense leisurely—a year-long feast of cantatas—and yet also quick-paced, with each week requiring the performance of several new works in different venues. As if to underscore the characteristic slowness of pilgrimages, however, the pace of the release of the live recordings from the Pilgrimage has been unhurried—the complete run of twenty-seven volumes has taken a decade, only completed in 2010. Thus, years after the event, we still have the pleasant discovery of new offerings, as in the 2010 release of the cantatas for the Twentieth and Twenty-first Sundays after Trinity (vol. 11).
With a decade’s worth of recordings at hand, by this time it comes as no surprise that there is little to surprise, except perhaps that the ensemble was able to maintain such high quality throughout the run. In this present volume, the characteristic touches are amply present: an often high-energy exuberance, remarkable stylistic fluency, an impressive command of 18th century performance idioms, and a rich sound palette. Whatever languages they may have encountered on their geographical pilgrimage, it is clear that the language of Bach is one they speak with the natural ease of a mother tongue.
The two liturgical days represented here focus on two themes: the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22), harnessed as an anticipation of the heavenly banquet in BWV 162, 49, and 180, and Jesus’s healing of the son of a nobleman (John 4), the prompt for musical essays on faith, doubt, and trust in BWV 109, 38, 98, and 188. Some of the cantatas remind of the degree to which the language and the form were conventionalized. “Ach, ich sehe,” BWV 162, for instance, features the kind of musical-word association that was standard, with fluid melodic and rhythmic motion to suggest the “fountain of all mercy” in the soprano aria, “Jesu, Brunnquell aller Gnaden,” or a rollicking bass line and melismatic prolixity to underscore the rejoicing in the alto-tenor duet, “In meinem Gott bin ich erfreut,” sung with admirable tidiness by Sara Mingardo and Christoph Genz. Yet, there is a significant amount of material that also underscores the range of variety and special touches that Bach brought to his sometimes weekly fare. For example, “Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen,” BWV 49, offers love duets between Jesus and the Christian Soul—more familiarly explored in BWV 21—enriched by the orchestrational additions of obligato organ and violoncello piccolo. “Ich glaube, lieber Herr,” BWV 109, offers a stunningly psychological monologue in the tenor recitative “Des Herren Hand,” in which the inner voices of faith and doubt spar one with the other, sung with expressive depth by Paul Agnew. Not all the variety is innovative, of course. The first chorus of “Aus tiefer Not,” BWV 38 is an old-styled motet, though with modern harmony intact.
Most notable among the solo singers are soprano Joanne Lunn, whose clarity and purity of sound is an unalloyed delight, and countertenor William Towers, whose ease in the high range is remarkable, as is the elegance of his contoured phrasing. The ensemble is uniformly in fine form, but perhaps most memorably so in the opening chorus of “Was Gott tut das ist wohlgetan,” BWV 98, where the instrumental playing is particularly refined and the choral sound at its best—admirably clear and free of constraint. Ten years is a long time from recording to release, but, as in the pilgrimage experience, good things are often well worth the wait.