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.
31 May 2011
Le Royaume Oublié: La Tragédie Cathare
Before a single track has been heard, Jordi Savall’s The Forgotten Kingdom impresses with its scale: a three-CD set packaged in a lavish, bound book that contains fifty dense pages of English commentary by nine different authors; adding the multiple translations, beautiful illustrations, and song texts, the book itself luxuriantly sprawls over 500 pages.
Named “Artists for Peace” by UNESCO in 2008 “for their outstanding musical commitment to intercultural dialogue and their contribution to furthering the Organization’s ideals,” Savall and his wife, the soprano Montserrat Figueras in The Forgotten Kingdom present a lyrical testimony to the high human cost when power and terror conjoin. Their focus is on the eradication of the Cathar culture of Occitana in southern France in the thirteenth century, an eradication accomplished by the Albigensian Crusade and the Inquisition that followed in its wake. The Cathari’s heretical embrace of dualism and anti-clericalism was answered by the strong arm of Roman ecclesial power, and tragic devastation accompanied the uprooting of the heresy; the killing of 20,000 residents of Beziers in 1209 suggests the scale of both the response and the tragic results. Savall’s work here is in part a musical excavation of this landscape, but is more prominently an explicit political reminder that our modern history resounds with the echoes. He writes of humankind’s “terrible amnesia” as “one of the principal causes of our inability to learn from history”; with references to Franco, Hitler, and the more recent wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq he underscores the persistence of that tragic inability.
The music ranges over several centuries. Some of it—fanfares, a haunting funeral march, and the like--is dramatic, even cinematic, in evoking the narrative landscape, with laments offering affective comment. Other music, such as the anti-clerical sirventes of Peire Cardenal, bring the specifics of the narrative into tighter focus. However, although the music is performed with the high polish, strong expressivity, and intensity that have long characterized the work of Savall and his colleagues, this is less an exploration of the music than the use of the music to remind of the poignant stakes at risk in aggression, in the demonizing of others, in not hearing the human voice of those we oppose. Savall’s expansive The Forgotten Kingdom makes the humanity of that voice both inescapable and memorable. The “artist for peace” leaves us much to ponder.