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
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.