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Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

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Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

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Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

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The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

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Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

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French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

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Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

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Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

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Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

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Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

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Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

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Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,



Carlos Kleiber — Traces to Nowhere
30 Aug 2011

Carlos Kleiber — Traces to Nowhere

Film biographies of great musicians notoriously exhibit a preference for talking heads nattering on over any music passages.

Carlos Kleiber — Traces to Nowhere

A film by Eric Schulz with Placido Domingo, Brigitte Fassbaender, Michael Gielen, Manfred Honeck, Veronika Kleiber, Otto Schenk and others.

ArtHaus Musik 101553 [DVD]

$22.99  Click to buy

No matter how original or astute the spoken observation may be, usually one is left wishing to hear the music without the voice-over. This is particularity frustrating if the selections or repertory are otherwise fairly obscure or rare. If the film biography is of a famous enough subject, opportunities to hear the music unimpeded by spoken commentary should be plentiful. The thoughts expressed by the various “talking heads” might even prompt one to explore, at one’s leisure, recordings that one may not have heard recently, if ever.

Eric Schulz’s film about the career of conductor Carlos Kleiber should fall into that latter camp for most viewers. During the course of a running time just over 70 minutes, many a viewer may tire of the unrelenting format of commentators speaking over archival footage of rehearsals or recordings played over photograph montages. Without too much effort, however, anyone can obtain recordings of Kleiber conducting the Fledermaus overture, Tristan und Isolde, or Brahms’s Symphony no. 4. Schulz omits the questions that prompt the reminiscences of those interviewed, which include the conductor’s sister as well as colleagues obscure and famous. The film is lightly organized, with a vaguely chronological format. As the 70 minutes proceed, therefore, some viewers may grow impatient with the repetitiveness of worshipful comments about Kleiber’s almost mystical ability to communicate his musical intentions to orchestras.

Schulz is also fond of capturing the interviewees simply listening to Kleiber recordings, their eyes aglow with wonder, and sometimes their hands waving lightly, as if conducting the music themselves. But the film doesn’t restrict itself to panegyrics, as Kleiber’s human failings also receive acknowledgement, from his infidelities to his growing self-doubt that caused him to almost withdraw from conducting entirely in the last years of his life.

Probably copyrights prevented Arthaus Musik from providing bonus features such as some of the remarkable rehearsal footage seen in the film in its entirety, without commentary, or even better, a live performance or two. Even so, not only will fans of Kleiber’s art find this documentary fascinating, but anyone who has ever simply wondered, “What is it that conductors really do?” will probably find this film extremely enlightening, without being overly technical about the conductor’s art. The film’s subtitle, “Traces to Nowhere,” gives a rather deceptive sense of the film’s contents. Although the last years of Kleiber’s life and career were sad, the sheer joy he emanated as seen in the Fledermaus overture rehearsal footage show that at his best, Carlos Kleiber conducted in a way that left more than just traces of joy and passion, fortunately forever caught in recordings and at least partly, in Schulz’s film.

Chris Mullins

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